Tate Modern Talk

Book of a Lifetime: Modigliani and Les Chants de Maldoror

Amedeo Modigliani Juan Gris 1915 Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876–1967), 1967 (67.187.85)

Author Richard Milward discusses the work of Lautréamont, one of Modigliani's favourite writers

​According to legend, the artist Amedeo Modigliani used to carry a copy of the Comte de Lautréamont's sadistic proto-surrealist novel Les Chants de Maldoror everywhere he went, learning by heart and quoting passages from its sinister pages. Published in 1868, the novel follows the exploits of an anarchic, shapeshifting reprobate Maldoror as he continually evades the clutches of the law and swerves good taste in a series of increasingly bizarre, loosely connected nightmare scenarios. The book not only had a remarkable effect on Modigliani but would also later inspire surrealists and their mining of the dark underbelly of the unconscious, as well as the Situationist International and the student revolts of May '68 in Paris.

Author Richard Milward will take us on a guided tour round the rotten terrain of Lautreamont's brain as he attempts to answer the question: what is it about this most unusual of novels that would make anyone want to carry it around with them permanently?

This hour-long tour is followed by a private view of the exhibition until 20.30.


Richard Milward is the author of three novels: Apples (2007), Ten Storey Love Song (2009) and Kimberly's Capital Punishment (2012), published by Faber & Faber. His work has received accolades from such folk as Irvine Welsh ('a major talent') and Lauren Laverne ('astounding'), and to date his books have been translated into nine languages. His fiction and non-fiction has appeared in publications such as The Face, Dazed & Confused, the Guardian, the Independent, the Times, Vice, It's Nice That and many more. He is currently working on a fourth novel, Man-Eating Typewriter, due for release in 2019.

This event has been provided by Tate Gallery on behalf of Tate Enterprises LTD​​​.

Tate Modern

In the exhibition

London SE1 9TG
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Date & Time

11 February 2018 at 18.30–20.30