Tales from the Crypt V: Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle on Le Comte de Lautrémont

by on Aug.21, 2013

Tales from the Crypt V (black beach reading) by Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle
The Chants of Maldoror by Isidore Ducasse/Le Comte de Lautréamont

“My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me. Tell me where did you sleep last night.“
“In the pines, in the pines, where the cold wind blows . . .”


Many the inroads made on evil, its constituency, continuance and crepuscular constitution. Baudelaire stacked up big wins. Dennis Cooper, in The Marble Swarm, to shop close and current. Poe, posies, poesy. None outdo Maldoror. This is the pit, art of darkness, full-on damnation to its gory core. †

“Death rained down like rags in Paris/Like an ugly vampire, like the wings of an umbrella . . .”* †

I read sick and twisted texts to free my mind from banal bourgeois domination! Unable to recall how I found or heard of it, I must have been 16, I’ve ravened on these Chants more times than I have read Genet. In a violent reevaluation of cheap businessman’s values I so batten, cover to cover ever to begin again.

“It was a turbulent age, stained purple/Like a twisted arcade of assassins . . .” †

At 24, its author’s age at death, (In mourning, the shadow of the lost object falls on the ego) I resolved to memorize Maldoror and transport him internally. As my copy would not slip into my jacket pocket, I seized steel rule and razor, excising all excess from its margins, carving it to fit, that I might wear it everywhere for hex protection.

“Inventing wolves to defend the light . . .” †

Face it: we know nothing about Le Comte de Lautréamont. In All Fires the Fire, Cortazar stuck tight to truth by literally leaving him out of this story about him! Then Neruda penned Lautréamont Reconquistado †, a suitably haunting horror show of stanzas sampled here.

No one else knows shit. Authors have disguised themselves, doubling, dissembling; hell, Rimbaud disappeared. Well, in a cage match Smack Down, I.D. whomps em (period). We paraphrase Michaux (It’s necessary to travel. It is not necessary to live.) Evidently Ducasse wrote, yet did not exist at all.

There is a prehistory to Rimbaud’s
“I is another.” (Letter to the Seer)
Which renders it elusive in its authorship
And therefore still more authoritative.
In 1854 Nerval inscribes a photo of himself
“I am another.” In 1870, six months
Before Rimbaud’s world-reversing letter,
The Comte de Lautreamont writes
“If I exist I am not another . . .”
He then starved to death
At the age of 24, shifting
Our emphasis to “if.”

“The cruel nocturnal falsifier tests his spurious talons/From honest eyes he fashions two holes/With black velvet, his reason makes a mask/With a howl, his celestial inclination is smothered.” †

“The toad of Paris, the boneless beast/From the obscene city follows each of his steps/Waits for him, and opens the doors of its thick jaws/Little Ducasse is devoured.” †

* “As beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table.” (Le Comte de Lautréamont). Isn’t Satan called The Prince of Lies? While Surrealists resurrect him for his sinister vision, Situationists (detournment) love him for his lies.

See Ducasse: Poesies.

† Translated by Maria Jacketti, available in The Poetry of Pablo Neruda, FSG, 2003.

8 comments for this entry:
  1. Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

    Johannes, I thank you for your immaculate solicitude.

    XO G C-H

  2. rRoss Sélavy

    fyi – that’s not Nirvana, it’s a cover – and I think it’s an old folk song dating back to the 19th Century.

  3. Johannes

    I think its generally attributed to leadbelly but these rhings get a little difficult to sort out. / johannes

  4. rRoss Sélavy

    Also I think worthy of consideration in this conversation is Bauhaus’ album The Sky’s Gone out, which has several explicit references to Maldoror, mostly on the 2nd side (also Artaud – who they would name a song after on their next, and last album). Actually, the way that Maldoror was taken up by the UK post-punk/industrial/experimental scene was really quite incredible, there’s a lot in Current 93 as well.

  5. peter richards

    This an intrepid gorgeous piece you wrote Johhannes.

  6. Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

    Becoming Animal

    (Shoulda called it “Going Ape!”) We do know Ducasse rewrote late drafts of The Chants with help from an Encyclopedia of Natural Science, converting every single human term in his original text to animal attributes— before submitting it to publishers. Of course it was banned. If you dislike Breton, thank him for unearthing this dark precursor to Deleuze.

    See also: Lautreamont and Sade, a bone chiller, by demonologist M. Blanchot.

    G C-H

  7. Edward Black

    Do you read it in the original French or translated?

    Which translation do you prefer? Alexis Lykiard’s or Paul Knight’s or Guy Wernham’s take?

  8. Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

    Uh, Johannes posted, Cruickshank penned.

    Correction: see comment 8/23 Peter Richards.