Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror.
THE MARRIAGE OF PROVERBS AND METAPHORS
Maldoror’s excursion into madness this time around put me in mind of William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell, hence the title I assigned to this 2nd stanza of the 4th Canto. Some critics contend that this section is set near Dendera in Egypt, where Maldoror’s wanderings had taken him in the previous stanza.
The author Isidore Ducasse pulls us into a bizarre realm of unreality – or maybe hyper-reality – with his vile main character. The Tower of Proverbs and the Tower of Metaphors catch Maldoror’s attention as he negotiates his way through an other-worldly valley in which literal reality blends with symbolic reality. At times in this section Ducasse comes close to anticipating the Stream of Consciousness writing pioneered by John Dos Passos and refined by James Joyce.
The lost and disoriented Maldoror at first mistakes the distant Towers of Proverbs and Metaphors for two tall columns, then baobab trees and finally pins, with readers and critics arguing to this day about the symbolic significance (if any) of all that. The supernatural being is conflicted about the boundaries that separate architectural forms from pure geometric ones if they are indeed even separate.
Impossibly enough the two towers seem to mark both the entranceway AND the terminus of the strange, ever-shifting valley of hyper-reality. As Maldoror struggles to make his way toward the distant objects conscious thought and subconscious thought blur together the same way literal reality and symbolic reality have. Maldoror’s twisted thought process is manifested through a series of odd sayings and aphorisms. To cite just a few:
“I can acknowledge my faults but not increase their gravity by my cowardice.”
“It is permitted to us all to kill flies and even rhinoceroses in order to rest from time to time from too much tedious labor.”
“Do we not see that a laborious morsel of literature would be perhaps less appreciated if it had taken as its basis some intricate question of chemistry or internal pathology?”
“Oh that inane philosopher who burst into peals of laughter when he saw a donkey eating a fig … I have seen a fig eating a donkey!”
“A feeling of repugnance toward that monstrosity called laughter forms an essential distinction of my character.”
“The sparrow-hawk rends the sparrow, the fig eats the donkey and the tapeworm devours mankind.”
Ignoring the creaking of chains and mournful wailing Maldoror finally reaches the two towers, at last emerging from the barren desert valley. Through the surveyor’s trick of perspective our protagonist sees that the two towers might actually be four but cannot be sure if that is real or merely another exercise in unreality. He can’t even be certain that he crossed the valley or simply became so disoriented that he doubled back and is exiting between the same two towers he passed when he entered.
Maldoror journeys on, vowing to never again set foot in the supernatural valley he was lucky to survive once.
I WILL BE EXAMINING ADDITIONAL SECTIONS VERY SOON. CHECK BACK ONCE OR TWICE A WEEK FOR NEW INSTALLMENTS.
FOR PART ONE CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2015/02/28/maldoror-a-neglected-masterpiece-of-surreal-horror/
FOR OTHER PARTS OF MALDOROR CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/category/maldoror/
© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.