The differences existing between the first three editions of Le Dernier Jour d’un condamné make it impossible to speak of single work with a single message, and close examination of the text shows that it is following a repetitive, mechanical compulsion that has come to be known as overdetermination. This mechanism, just as capable of producing horror as it is of producing outrage, guides the novel itself, but also corrupts the prefaces, making them more emphatic than persuasive.

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