Lautréamont's Maldoror: Translated by Alexis Lykiard Characters

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Lautramont's Maldoror: Translated by Alexis Lykiard Summary & Study Guide Description

Lautramont's Maldoror: Translated by Alexis Lykiard Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Lautramont's Maldoror: Translated by Alexis Lykiard by Comte de Lautréamont.

Maldororappears in throughout

Maldoror is the main character of these poems. As the poems, at least until the sixth and final book, are not meant to form any kind of cohesive narrative, Maldoror's character and nature are not always consistent throughout. The most dramatic example of this inconsistency is Book IV, Stanza 4, in which Maldoror is presented as an ancient, immobile body in which various animals have nested; such a state is clearly not consistent with other passages, in which Maldoror is depicted as deftly sneaking around cities.

Maldoror's most significant quality, for Lautreamont's purposes, is that he has completely rejected God, religion, and morality. As such, he freely gives into his various sadistic and "perverse" instincts. He is an habitual murderer—he murders or tries to murder several people in various stories in the book and several other murders are referenced—and a homosexual with an interest particularly in young boys, a "vice" which would be particularly shocking to his 19th century audience. It is possible that Maldoror's homosexuality is the explanation for his rare moments of benevolence—for example

Maldoror's exact nature is unclear. Excluding those passages which make him into something particularly monstrous—such as the already-mentioned Book IV, Stanza 4—one still gets the impression that he is something supernatural. The term "vampire" is used to describe him at several points, though he denies being one since it implies that he is dead. Of course, what exactly the term "vampire" means in 19th century France might largely be lost on the modern reader but there is the obvious implication of some kind of supernatural evil.

Godappears in throughout

God's presence in the story is primarily in addresses by Maldoror or the narrator. God is constantly accused of various crimes and injustices, particularly for allowing (or directly causing) evil things to happen to undeserving people. This kind of complaint seems to be a literary adaptation of the problem of evil, one of the classic arguments against God's existence. According to this argument, God's existence is refuted by showing that the existence of evil things in the world—famines, plagues, or even evil people like Maldoror—contradicts some of his essential qualities, namely his goodness and his omnipotence.

While God is treated like an actual, existing being in the story, it is probably more reasonable to believe that Lautreamont is an atheist. The purpose of pretending that God's existence is rather obvious. Lautreamont is clearly interested in shocking his reader and a particularly effective way of doing so is through the use of blasphemy. While atheism was far from a popular belief in 19th-century France, it was common enough among intellectuals that it likely would not scandalize Lautreamont's (probably considerably educated) audience. Blasphemy, though, was probably a line that had not been frequently transgressed by other authors and thus gave "Les Chants de Maldoror" an additional punch.

The Grave-Diggerappears in Book I, Stanza 12

Maldoror meets and converses with a grave-digger in Norway. Among the topics of their discussion is the finality of death and the existence of an afterlife.

The Female Sharkappears in Book II, Stanza 13

Maldoror goes searching for someone like him and finally finds his prize when he meets a large, female shark that is feasting on the corpses of men who died in a shipwreck.

The Fish-Manappears in Book IV, Stanza 7

Maldoror meets a man who tried to commit suicide by throwing himself into the sea but found that God had provided for him to live an amphibious existence.

Falmerappears in Book IV, Stanza 8

Falmer is a young boy who tries to stop Maldoror from killing a woman. Maldoror throws Falmer against a tree and runs away and is haunted by the possibility that the throw killed him.

Reginaldappears in Book V, Stanza 7

Maldoror once tried to murder Reginald and, in revenge, Reginald transforms into a spider with Elssineur to torment Maldoror for ten years.

Elssineurappears in Book V, Stanza 7

Elssineur was a young boy and possibly one of Maldoror's lovers. Maldoror tried to kill him but managed only to cut off his arm. Elssineur works with Reginald to torment Maldoror by turning into a spider every night.

Mervynappears in Book VI, Stanzas 3-10

Mervyn is a young boy who piques Maldoror's interest. Maldoror meets with him on the pretext of taking him away to travel, but instead kidnaps him and, ultimately, murders him.

The Crab-Archangelappears in Book VI, Stanzas 8 and 10

God sends one of his archangels, in the form of a large crab, to stop Maldoror. The archangel's failure to stop or even at all obstruct Maldoror shows the impotence of religion.

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