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Lautrémont’s ‘chants of the good’

I read the Comte de Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror at some point in my twenties, drawn to the intensity of its gothic, absurdist imagery and the enigma of its author (Lautréamont was a pen name; the author’s real name was Isidore Ducasse).

I recently discovered that Ducasse had planned to write a companion volume: a ‘chants of the good’, as a counterpoint to or repudiation of Maldoror’s revels of evil. In what may have been a preface to the new work, he announced his intentions thus:

I replace melancholy by courage, doubt by certainty, despair by hope, malice by good, complaints by duty, scepticism by faith, sophisms by cool equanimity and pride by modesty.

It’s fair to say that, in general, I swerve toward the negative value in most of Ducasse’s binaries above, especially melancholy, doubt and despair. This has been particularly the case over the last few years, having found myself at times overwhelmed by feelings of failure and fraudulence.

But it helps to know that there are alternatives, whatever challenges may stand in the way of realising them.