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Down There

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  1,719 ratings  ·  101 reviews
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.
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Paperback, 264 pages
Published 1974 by Sphere Books Limited (first published 1891)
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Rowena
Perhaps if I hadn’t read some essays on fin de siècle decadent French literature last year I would have been more shocked by some of the grosser parts of this book. But forewarned is forearmed , and a large part of this book is about the occult so I wasn’t expecting it to be an easy read.

I found the book very beautifully written, very brutal and thought provoking. If I’d bought a copy of this book it would have been heavily underlined. There was a lot of knowledge imparted in this book, mostly
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
One of my favorite pastimes is pretending I worship Satan. Since being a non-religious sort is basically the same thing to an awful lot of (at least, the Oklahoman variety) Christians, I may as well go full fanfare. Well, since my views are so easily cast aside via the very scripture I oppose - You don't believe because Satan has tricked you, aha! Gotcha there! - then all that's really left for me to do is offer up an opposing yet equally juvenile perspective. Wheeee, Satan! As I finished this b ...more
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 ...more
Evan
FINAL THOUGHTS:
I'm not going to be able to do this book justice. It's one of those reads where you want to mark the book up with underlines because of all the great quotes and all the passages that are so relevant to today.
The book is a great read, very different. It covers so much philosophical, historical and transgressive territory. It has just about everything.

Ultimately, the book bashes the modern world of science and technology and atheism (of 1891) in favor of the mystical simplicity of
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Joshua
The structure is completely transparent --it's spelled out in the text from page one-- an exploration of satanic practices in fin de siecle Paris and an attempt to contextualize it historically.

The entire text, and all of its conflicting opinions and questioning of facts by the characters involved, resonate of the author himself trying to piece together the overreaching novel he has set before him. His own sexual fantasies and decidedly un-romantic descriptions of his sexual encounters, his adm
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Sunny
A really well written book but the subject made me sick. How anyone can hurt a small ant knowing he is causing harm let alone a child is beyond me. The book is about a writer in around the 1900s writing about Satanism. He is writing about a fucking psycho from around the 1400s called Gilles de Rais who fought alongside Joan of Arc against the British and was a rich bloke but he turned psycho and starting killing children and doing some of the most disgusting things I have ever read. In the story ...more
Nate D
Oct 20, 2010 Nate D rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: demoniacs
Recommended to Nate D by: goodreads
Being an investigation into mystical and heretical Catholicism at the end of the 19th century, with comparisons to the reign of terror of medieval murderer-mystic Gilles de Rais. What's most interesting is perhaps the degree to which Satanism here is presented as reliant on and subordinate to orthodox Catholicism. The greatest heresiarchs, are, of course, fallen clergy, much of the weird ritual described here is utterly reliant on consecration of the host, and one of the most horrifying aspects ...more
Roxana Russo
Well you might think that a late 19th century novel about demonic possession and satanic orgies would be absurd; in all other cases you would most probably be right. However, I must admit that I took up La Bas after the joys that I took away from A rebours (against nature)and the pleasure, though a different aesthetic experience, was just as sublime.
Greg
La-Bas is every bit as good as Against Nature (A Rebours), but is a very different story. Not what I expected, this amazing work has other layers than the surface story about the writer Durtal, Des Hermies and the mysterious Mme. Chantelouve. The more I think about this book in writing a review, the more I find. I could reread this many times. I'm also looking forward to reading The Cathedral.

Added thoughts.

La-Bas - The main characters.

Durtal, a writer in Paris, researching the history of Gille
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Randolph Carter
For those of you out there that actually know me this is a fake review, so go waste your time somewhere else. I started writing fake reviews when badreads started censoring real reviews and Amazon stole them to sell e-readers. I actually read this book, but I'm not going to tell you anything about it except that if you really want to know, you can go over to booklikes (I know you know how to Google it so no I'm not linking it here). I hope you enjoy reading this on your new Kindle Fire HDX or Pa ...more
Christopher
"Là-Bas" is a tale told through the affairs and investigations of a writer named Durtal and some rather thinly-developed characters with whom he associates. It's written in (and seems to be faithfully translated in) the typical French Gothic style; very flourished in its prose with dark and shadowy sets and its romantic scenes are written almost as parodies of themselves. I do enjoy the way that Victorian-era writers can describe filth and vices that can leave you feeling effectively disgusted w ...more
Andrew
Huysmans is just as decadent and anti-modernist as I remember, bless him. Maybe he's not especially good at pointing the way to live one's life, but he provides an excellent entertainment... Satanism, medieval madmen, esoteric knowledge, treatises on the nature of the bell, Catholicism and devil worship as perfect reflections of each other... this is the whole package, baby!

I suppose you have to be able to put up with a fair amount of description and extended philosophical discourse, so if that'
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Stephen Durrant
In recent weeks I have been concentrating on literature of the last decade or two of the nineteenth century. This interest has inevitably pushed me towards the decadents—Gabriele d’Annunzio, Oscar Wilde, and now J.-K. Huysmans. The latter’s The Damned (Là-Bas) is sometimes put alongside his Against Nature (À rebours) as two masterpieces of French decadent literature. I have difficulty, though, in understanding how Huysmans fits together with a writer like d’Annunzio, whose Pleasure was one of my ...more
Mike Lester
The first part of Huysmans' journey from the darkness to the light. In La Bas the subject is Satanism (the black mass in particular). I can't help but think of Schnitzler's Dream Story (adapted to film as Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick) and what a great companion piece (or double feature) these two novels make. This and A Rebours are good places to start with Huysmans.
Robert
Written in Huysmans' customarily languid and pompous prose, La Bas (The Damned) is a pessimistic novel about Satanism and obsession, told through the experiences of a frustrated writer named Durtal. A thinly-veiled analogue of Huysmans himself, Durtal desperately wants to write an entirely new kind of novel, one which will evoke the same kind of awe as religious art, but without resorting to any of the conventions of the genre. He eventually settles on a biography of the mass child-murderer and ...more
James
"Là-Bas" by J.K. Huysmans. I first heard of this cult 1891 novel when I read Kenneth Grant's "Cults of the Shadows" around 2004 or so. I found a copy of the Dover edition in July 2006, at the Barnes & Noble I work at, oddly enough. Although I have quite a few translations of this novel, the Dover edition is my sentimental favorite, as I like the Odilon Redon artwork on the front cover, and the evocative description of the book on the back cover (which begins thusly: "This novel is the classi ...more
Robert Beveridge
J. K. Huysmans, La-Bas (Dover, 1891)

Ah, Huysmans, the author who pioneered the novel of "two people spending a whole chapter talking about things that have absolutely nothing to do with the plot, theme, or story." La-Bas (translated, "Down There") is billed by the blurb-writer who did the back cover as "the classic of Satanism" thanks to a description (I warn you, it comes very, very late in the book; those seeking a quick fix of prurience should certainly look elsewhere) of a Black Mass. One th
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Patrick Kelly
J-K Huysmans wrote this novel as part of a series exploring his own spiritual affiliations. The protagonist of the novel, Durtal, appears in several other works by Huysmans. This particular novel represents Durtal's exploration of Gilles de Rais, serial killer, rapist, and supposed black magician. Durtal inadvertently involves himself in a black mass. Huysmans' usual attention to detail shines in these instances, creating one of the most vivid and memorable descriptions of a black mass in modern ...more
eva
blerg. i was intrigued by des hermies and durtal's early discussions on what would attract people - especially intelligent, sensitive people - away from materialism to spiritualism. i...enjoyed? (though the word hardly seems appropriate) learning about gilles de rais. i liked the yummy dinners at the carhaixes'. but i couldn't have cared less about the endless gossipy stupid musings about all the astrologists, alchemists, fortune-tellers, mediums, faith healers, exorcisers, necromancers, wizards ...more
Kelly
Hard for me to dislike a book that contains lines such as these:

"And litanies of lust arise in the dirty draught of this slaughter house."

"The older I get the more wary I become of living in a constant state of mortal sin."

"What a twisted and misshapen world we live in!" reflected Gevingey, pensively. "Nobody believes in anything any more and yet everybody swallows everything they are told wholesale."

"They will turn out," replied Durtal, "just the same as their parents. They will stuff their gut
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Austin
The novel opens with a withering critique of Naturalism, dealt by one of the few friends of the main character, Durtal. A novel which embodies even more explicitly Huysmans' attempts to repudiate the purely realist in literature, La Bas really is the stuff of 'diseased imaginations', so says one of the quotes on the Dedalus edition, though not in the way I expected. Discussions of art, Satanic spells, bells in church history, and what more I can't remember abound, yet I couldn't help but notice ...more
Jonathon Taylor
This was a fascinating book to read. But, I can't help but feel that the majority of commentary that is directed towards this book is misplaced, or, centred around that which the book was not intended to portray.


Specifically, I, at least, found that in contrast to what most reviewers seem to focus on,found the black mass scene to be a relatively underwhelming climax. However, I do not believe that this was the intention of the book. It was, after all, written in 1891, which is quite a bit later
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John
A weird, fascinating novel.

A spiritual, anti-modernist condemnation of bourgeois mass society. In Durtal's search for religious invigoration, you get to read about medieval Satanic violence, succubi and incubi, and a Black Mass! I also learned about the old and sacred art of bell making. Dorothy Day mentions these books in telling of her conversion to Catholicism.

David
I read this years ago when in my late 20s. The work was wonderfully odd and compelling. Not for traditionalists or Xtians...but I enjoyed it.

Difficult to classify as you might tell by the tags I've added to this. Worth the effort and there isn't much effort required.
Clint
This book has some really god moments, some of the descriptions of Bluebeard, for example, and of course the Satanic mass at the end, and the description of the bell system in the tower, but I get the feeling that after Against Nature, Huysman was just trying.
Meurs
Et je remercie Houellebecq de m'avoir replongé dans ce livre lu à l'adolescence. Je l'ai relu en mettant son visage à la place de Durtal, effet garanti! Plus sérieusement, cela m'amène à reconsidérer mon appréciation de Soumission, qui se retrouve être simplement le livre d'une idée à la mode et d'une analyse superficielle de l'islam et des mécanismes de la conversion. Chez Huysmans, ce qui frappe d'abord, c'est la richesse d'écriture et l'étendue du vocabulaire employé, avec des bonheurs d'expr ...more
Miriam
Cerebral erotomania
Axolotl
It seems to me that this is a lopsided book: a little dull for the first half, until Mme. Chantelouve comes on the scene and then things get interesting. The book could have been boiled down to simply four chapters (chapters 18-21) with very little consequence. However, the book does have an interestingly modern view of the condition of man and attributes his continued degradation (a process that is still in effect at this time) to a loss of faith in the face of materialism---which is interestin ...more
Marie
Ah, nothing like a Victorian French novel about Satanism! The book surprised me by opening up mid-scene, mid-argument, two men arguing about literature and whether the realists are all they're cracked up to be. I suppose this was the author telling us his stance on writing before we got into his book, having already been hooked by the promise of tasty tasty Satanism.

They griped about Stendhal and George Sand and I found myself more interested in their conversation than most readers likely would
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Ethan Miller
For fans of late 19th century French lit this is a juicy one. Psychology, horror, pulp, crime and comedy blend nicely--all dripping with that unmistakable "French Tone". Durtal, the protagonist, is writing a biography of the infamous child murderer Gilles De Rais and as "La Bas" progresses he becomes increasingly obsessed with lifting up the cloak of contemporary Satanism in France and seeing for himself what lies beneath. Along the way Durtal tangles with questions of his own anti-social behavi ...more
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123088
French novelist who published his works as Joris-Karl Huysmans. He is most famous for the novel À rebours (Against Nature). His style is remarkable for its idiosyncratic use of the French language, wide-ranging vocabulary, wealth of detailed and sensuous description, and biting, satirical wit. The novels are also noteworthy for their encyclopaedic documentation, ranging from the catalogue of decad ...more
More about Joris-Karl Huysmans...
Against Nature (A Rebours) En Route With the Flow Becalmed The Cathedral

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“Really, when I think it over, literature has only one excuse for existing; it saves the person who makes it from the disgustingness of life.” 7 likes
“Speaking of dust, ‘out of which we came and to which we shall return,’ do you know that after we are dead our corpses are devoured by different kinds of worms according as we are fat or thin? In fat corpses one species of maggot is found, the rhizophagus, while thin corpses are patronized only by the phora. The latter is evidently the aristocrat, the fastidious gourmet which turns up its nose at a heavy meal of copious breasts and juicy at bellies. Just think, there is no perfect equality, even in the manner in which we feed the worms.” 7 likes
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