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Posts Tagged ‘Decadent’

Là-bas (The Damned)

In Novel on March 25, 2008 at 12:19 am

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The Damned/Là-bas (1891)

Author: Joris-Karl Huysmans
Publisher: Penguin Classic
Pages: 320 pages
I had this book on my Amazon wish list for a long time even though I didn’t know much about it except for it to be about Gilles de Rais and satanism. When I visited the fascinating Gustave Moreau Museum in Paris and saw the interesting show on author J.K. Huysmans’s fin de siècle (turn-of-the-century) writings in relation to Moreau’s fin de siècle paintings, I finally picked it up.

There’s not much of a plot to this book, in fact it reads more like nonfiction sometimes. But the subject matter is interesting and shocking for its time, hence quite a page turner. The novel starts with the author’s rambling on his dislike for Naturalism through the main character Durtal, a 19th century man bored with unromantic modern life and delved into writing a biography on Gilles de Rais, who’s also known as the “Blue Beard,” the world first known “serial killer” who tortured, raped and killed more than five hundred young boys during the Middle ages. A large part of the novel devoted to Durtal’s biography on Gilles, chronicling his role in aiding Joan of Arc to the very horrific atrocities he committed for Satanism. Dural also attempted to explain “how an honest soldiers and a decent Christian, could suddenly turn into an evil, cowardly, sacrilegious sadist.” These parts are the most captivating parts of the novel. It’s a good source to learn about Gilles de Rais and the medieval time. The author offered some interesting views on the matter through the characters.

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