La bas

by Huysmans J. K.

Paperback, 1961

Status

Available

Call number

843.8

Genres

Publication

Le Livre de Poche (1961)

Description

At the novel's center is Durtal, a writer obsessed with the life of one of the blackest figures in history, Gilles de Rais -- child murderer, sadist, necrophile, and practitioner of all the black arts. The book's authentic, extraordinarily detailed descriptions of the Black Mass have never been surpassed.

User reviews

LibraryThing member slickdpdx
A learned paranoid Catholic and Satanic adventure novel with a longing for the good old days - as in, the dark ages. It is apparent to me that Huysmans decided to end this just as it was nearing its climax. The night I finished the book, I dreamt of a small black volume that contained the missing ending, written, but also suppressed, by Huysmans. If you should happen to run across it, please let me know.… (more)
LibraryThing member KayDekker
One thing to remember when considering this novel is that it is only the first, if now the most famous, of a sequence of four about the protagonist Durtal: Là-Bas (1891); En route (1895); La cathédrale (1898); and L'Oblat (1903). The sequence develops Durtal's relationship with Catholicism, and I think presents him as a more complete character, something which may seem to be lacking if one has read only this first novel of the sequence.… (more)
LibraryThing member bcquinnsmom
Okay, another Victorian gothic. What can I say? I love the stuff! This one is really weird. The premise is that a writer who is totally obsessed with Bluebeard (Gilles de Rais in reality) gets hooked on his satanic leanings. He tells himself that to really understand this guy, he will himself have to witness a Black Mass. The book is about his journey down the path to an invitation to a Black Mass and all the creepy goings on in between. You truly must like Victorian gothic and stick with the story, because it is a slow unfolder.… (more)
LibraryThing member georgematt
A disjointed and discursive 19th Century 'decadent' novel that reads more like non-fiction at times. Did not relate to the main character's Catholic torment about sex which was another hindrance to a full appreciation. Worth reading though for the story of the real life Medieval Satanist and serial killer, Gilles de Rais, although not for the faint hearted.… (more)
LibraryThing member judithrs
La Bas (Down There or The Damned). J.K. Huysman. 1891. This is a book I wish I hadn’t read. It is the first title in a series, and I saw a reference to the second title, En Route, on a Catholic site about conversion. I was intrigued because it was set in France. As I downloaded En Route, I saw that is was a trilogy so I downloaded all three volumes since they were free because they were so old. Durtal, the narrator is tired of life in fin de siècle Paris. He is a writer and longs for what he considers a better age, the Middle Ages (a French Miniver Cheevy?), so he decides to write a book on Giles De Rais known to us as Bluebeard (Barbebleu). Giles de Rais was a compatriot of Joan of Arc. He accompanies her on all her battles and was named a Marshal of France because of his bravery. He returned home and later descended into utter depravity. The records are unclear as to how many children he abused and later killed. He also became involved in Satanism. The more Durtal read about Satanism the more interested he became. Through a friend Durtal met a woman who took him to a black mass. He was so disgusted and sickened that he never saw the woman again and completely lost his interest in Satanism. Huysman reminds me of Umberto Eco. His erudition is astonishing. His description of Grunewald, “Crucifixion” makes you feel as if you are looking at the horror with him: “…this coarse, tear-compelling Calvary was at the opposite pole from those debonair Golgothas adopted by the Church ever since the Renaissance….the Christ of the apostolic church, the vulgar Christ, ugly with the assumption of the whole burden of our sins and clothed, through humility, in the most abject of forms…He had willed to suffer the Passion with all the suffering permitted to the human senses.” There are numerous references and comments on the church and suggestions that he will eventually convert. “Durtal was attracted to the Church by its intimate and ecstatic art, the splendor of its legends, and the radiant naivete of the histories of its saints… (more)
LibraryThing member Eustrabirbeonne
Each star stands for one favourite fragment : the description of Grünewald 's Crucifixion (the memory of this passage caused me to take the 7-hour train trip from Paris to Colmar, mostly to see the Unterlinden version) and the delightful dinner with the Carhaix couple (chapter V). Otherwise the narrative is loose and clumsy, the black mass is more laughable than terrifying (except perhaps for stern or particularly naive Catholics), and the portrayal of Madame Chantelouve is really silly. How can an admirer of Barbey d'Aurevilly and Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, a follower of Flaubert, a fellow-writer of Zola and Maupassant portray women in such a ridiculous way? This novel is hardly a match for "A Rebours".… (more)
LibraryThing member jonfaith
The best one can do is point to Dostoevsky . . . as providing the closest approximation to such an ideal. Yet even that amenable Russian is more an evangelical socialist than an enraptured realist. In France, now that the purely physical recipe has fallen into such discredit, two clans have emerged: the liberals, who, by emasculating it of anything contentious, whether social or linguistic, have made Naturalism a subject fit for drawing room chitter-chatter; and, even more extreme, the decadents who reject plot, description, even character, and rave on unintelligibly in a telegraphic gibberish intended to represent the language of the soul.

The Damned is a curious novel. It is not necessarily one of extremes, but, rather of alarm. There is a concern for traditions gone awry and hopes for salvation. Both are obscured by the mechanized din of existence. This strikes me as rather Marxist, but then who am I?

I braced myself for the horrific but felt more disturbed by hope professed. Huysmans reminds me of the Serbian director Dušan Makavejev displaying a poetics of detail, a departure away from explication in the form of procedure. A spectre is haunting Paris, democratic sheep are rejecting the Republic and the church has abandoned heraldry. Huysmans instead allows the reader to ponder the preperation of a soup and the nature of a liqueur, all the while the dining table discussions argue the timetable of Christ's thousand year reign. The term surreal is bandied about too often today. The contrasts between this and the descriptions of Gilles de Rais' atrocities provides a calm, one I fashion to be of despair. I found the idea that Rais repented and was, however obliquely, regarded as martyr to be an all-too-human eventuality.
… (more)
LibraryThing member NekoApocalypse
Absolutely fuck this stupid book. Not because it's too graphic or something. No. I actually was looking at the reviews of this thing before I read it thinking, hah! cowards, pussies! I am the sort of person who wants to find the most offensively devious thing I can possibly read. But no, that wasn't even what I found in this book. What I found in this book is a few morons who are obsessed with religion, talk non stop about supernatural bullshit like alchemy, astrology, religious ceremonies for practicing magic, talking with the dead. It's a litany of utter bullshit, which really doesn't enlighten you in any way. It's actually just annoying.

Now, I will say that this book wasn't 100% terrible. It did piss me off and I didn't enjoy it, but none the less I will say huysmans is a good writer, in terms of his prose. He can write a very mean sentence, his style is good. It had a tiny little bit of some of the nasty stuff I was expecting, but it's few and far between. Most of it is about that stuff I mentioned earlier, only a tiny bit of it is actually about the hideous satanic rituals of Gilles De Rais. That wasn't bad, but honestly I thought the book would have more of that. Most of the time it's just Des Hermes talking with Dertal about superstitious nonsense, and their friend Carhaix the church bell ringer. Dertal Soliloquizes his thoughts a lot too.

So, this book was a big disappointment, and it took me a long time to read! The writing style is pretty firmly ye olde writing style. To be honest I only made it to page 200, I couldn't even finish it. I had a lot better luck reading through it when I got a different translation. At first I tried the Keene Wallace translation and found it horrible to try to get through. Then I tried the Brendan King translation, and that was a lot plainer to read. And one last note, there's also some really cringeworthy stuff that happens in the book which I won't even allude to, in case there's someone reading this who actually gets it in their head that they actually want to read this thing. I don't wanna spoil it for you.

So this is a horrible book, the characters just bore the crap out of me, listening to them talk is like listening to some talk show host that you hate everything that comes out of his mouth. Everything they talk about in this book is a fucking waste of time, but at least it's written elegantly. And don't think that means it's worth it just because of that, because it's not.
… (more)
LibraryThing member NekoApocalypse
Absolutely fuck this stupid book. Not because it's too graphic or something. No. I actually was looking at the reviews of this thing before I read it thinking, hah! cowards, pussies! I am the sort of person who wants to find the most offensively devious thing I can possibly read. But no, that wasn't even what I found in this book. What I found in this book is a few morons who are obsessed with religion, talk non stop about supernatural bullshit like alchemy, astrology, religious ceremonies for practicing magic, talking with the dead. It's a litany of utter bullshit, which really doesn't enlighten you in any way. It's actually just annoying.

Now, I will say that this book wasn't 100% terrible. It did piss me off and I didn't enjoy it, but none the less I will say huysmans is a good writer, in terms of his prose. He can write a very mean sentence, his style is good. It had a tiny little bit of some of the nasty stuff I was expecting, but it's few and far between. Most of it is about that stuff I mentioned earlier, only a tiny bit of it is actually about the hideous satanic rituals of Gilles De Rais. That wasn't bad, but honestly I thought the book would have more of that. Most of the time it's just Des Hermes talking with Dertal about superstitious nonsense, and their friend Carhaix the church bell ringer. Dertal Soliloquizes his thoughts a lot too.

So, this book was a big disappointment, and it took me a long time to read! The writing style is pretty firmly ye olde writing style. To be honest I only made it to page 200, I couldn't even finish it. I had a lot better luck reading through it when I got a different translation. At first I tried the Keene Wallace translation and found it horrible to try to get through. Then I tried the Brendan King translation, and that was a lot plainer to read. And one last note, there's also some really cringeworthy stuff that happens in the book which I won't even allude to, in case there's someone reading this who actually gets it in their head that they actually want to read this thing. I don't wanna spoil it for you.

So this is a horrible book, the characters just bore the crap out of me, listening to them talk is like listening to some talk show host that you hate everything that comes out of his mouth. Everything they talk about in this book is a fucking waste of time, but at least it's written elegantly. And don't think that means it's worth it just because of that, because it's not.
… (more)

Language

Original publication date

1891
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