Other Fiction Huysmans, Joris-Karl: Là Bas (Down There) v.1, 23 June 2007
#1  Patricia 06-23-2007, 08:11 PM
I've added some pictures, a TOC, removed a lot of scanning errors and reformatted to include emdashes etc.

This is another very decadent book, from the end of the 19th century and features a black mass, graphic discussions of French Satanism, and the story of Gilles de Rais: a serial child-murderer who started his career as a supporter of Jeanne d'arc.

Plot outline
The novel is set in 1888 - January 1889, culminating in the election of General Boulanger as a Paris deputy. The central character, Durtal, is a Parisian writer, completely alienated from the modern world. He despises the American-style spin-doctoring of the Boulangists, loathes the herd mentality of the masses, and finds modern life anaemic. But what is the altenative? Unlike Des Esseintes in 'A Rebours' (already uploaded), Durtal does not have the means to organise a life dedicated to the senses. So he takes refuge in medievalism.

He spends a lot of time with his friends discussing the failings of the modern novel (a criticism of Zola) and believes that the Middle Ages was the time when human beings were at their most creative and original. Hence, he is writing a life of the notorious murderer and satanist, Gilles de Rais. On hearing that Satanism is still practised in France, Durtal wants to attend a black mass in order to help with his literary research. Can the mysterious woman who has been sending him anonymous love-letters aid this endeavour?

Francophile readers will notice parallels with the alienation described in Sartre's novels. Huysmans continues Durtal's quest in three more novels in which, repelled by the black mass, he is converted to Catholicism.

PS Gilles de Rais was probably innocent of the enormities attributed to him. He was richer than the king of France and the Duke of Brittany, who wanted his money and stitched him up. The bones found in his castle have been analysed as Roman in origin. Once he realised that he might be tortured he made a spectacular confession. He may have thought that no one would credit such atrocities. How wrong he was.
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