Isidore Ducasse was born to a French Consular Officer and his wife. Little is known about his childhood, but it is believed he moved to France at the age of 10 to attend a Parisian lycée. He left school aged 19 to travel, but soon returned to Paris, where he began writing his seminal work, "Les Chants de Maldoror", under the name Comte de Lautreamont (based on a character from a popular French gothic novel)
The first canto of the book was published in 1868, and the complete work in 1869. The publisher Lacroix however refused to sell the book as they feared prosecution for blasphemy or obscenity. While fighting to have the work published, Ducasse began work on a book of poetry titled Poesies, however this work remained unfinished as the author died under unknown circumstances.
Les Chants de Maldoror is based around a character called Maldoror, a figure of unrelenting evil who has forsaken God and mankind. The book combines an obscene and violent narrative with vivid and often surrealistic imagery.
The book is often seen as an important work of French symbolism. The artist, Amedeo Modigliani always carried a copy of the book with him and used to walk around Montparnasse, quoting from Maldoror. In the 20th century it was acknowledged by the writer André Breton as being a direct precursor to surrealism.