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Diaboliques: Six Tales of Decadence

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,279 ratings  ·  71 reviews
First published in 1874, Les Diaboliques caused an uproar and all the copies of the book were seized on the orders of the Ministry of Justice as the book was a danger to public morality. In Les Diaboliques there are six tales of female temptresses--she-devils--in which horror and the wild Normandy countryside combine to send a shiver down the spine of the reader.
Paperback, 312 pages
Published October 8th 2015 by University Of Minnesota Press (first published 1874)
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Glenn Russell
May 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly (1808 – 1889), romantic with the sensibility of a decadent , self-styled dandy, teller of risqué novels and short stories, shocked readers and infuriated the authorities with the publication of Les Diaboliques. But there is much more to this captivating novel with its sumptuous, elegant language, well-crafted metaphors and highly visual and sensual imagery than simply shock value. Below are a number of themes common to the six separate tales comprising this novel:

Story
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Bill Kerwin

" 'Keep in the ranks, Ranconnet,' said Mesnilgrand, as though he had been commanding his squadron, 'and hold your tongue. Are you always going to be as hot-headed and impatient as you are before the enemy? Let me make my story manoeuvre as I like.' "

Thus Napoleon's old commander upbraids a former officer who presumes to suggest that he get to the point of his narrative in "A Dinner of Atheists," one of the six stories included in Barbey d'Aurvevilly's "Les Diaboliques."

It is good advice for any
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Warwick
He was no longer thinking about her beauty. He was looking at her as if he wanted to attend her autopsy.

[Il ne pensait plus à sa beauté. Il la regardait comme s’il avait désiré assister à l’autopsie de son cadavre.]


I once heard someone explain what ‘rococo’ meant by saying that it’s what happens when the baroque out-baroques itself. Barbey d’Aurevilly is what happens when the Romantic movement out-Romantics itself. These stories are obsessed with the Romanticism of high emotion and the sublime –
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J.
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It may be that creatures of that sort love deception for deception's sake, as others love art for art's sake, or as the Poles love battles.
Ladies.
First and foremost, d'Aurevilly is concerned, enchanted, and perhaps obsessed by les dames du salon, and the more clever and deceptive, the better appreciated. He will concede that his Royalist, Catholic codes are double-edged, double-sided, even, and can be reversed for interesting effect. And he knows that (for 1820) the gallant gentleman's
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Jim
Jul 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 19th-century-lit
Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly has written a strange, but beautifully composed set of decadent short stories. The unifying theme is a set of heroines who are intent on vengeance, crime, or violence. In most of the six stories, there is a framing story, usually involving aging roués recalling their youths over coffee, brandy, and cigars. Typical are the old soldiers in "At a Dinner of Atheists," in which the conversation turns to women:
All took part in this abuse of women, even the oldest, the
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Shawn
Dec 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite a good read. Perhaps a bit stiff for some, but these varied tales of male and female relations must have been shocking at the time and a few still manage to disturb.

D'Aurevilly writes almost exclusively of the defeated, wealthy class of French monarchists, left to languish as society and history passes them by. Most are set either in D'Aurevilly's sometimes-hometown of Valognes or, of course, Paris. Interestingly, they are all told as stories within a story, so the intruiged and shocked
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Eadweard
I have a feeling that I wouldn't have liked the man in person (the whole aristocratic / monarchist / holier than thou thing) BUT, he sure could write. I'm not giving it five stars because I felt like it dragged a bit a few times (could have removed a page or two).




"Like everything else that provokes malice and envy, birth exercises over the very people who most bitterly reject its claims a physical ascendancy, which is perhaps the best proof of its rights. In time of Revolution this ascendancy is
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J.M. Hushour
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another of those works, notable for its now dated, obsolescent notorious-ness, but one that stands on its own merits. Les Dia (not to be mistaken for Les Diarrheaux, Eng. "The Diarrhea-tistes" by Comte En Briches) was, in its time, considered to be a work of great obscenity (it's not) and is now mistakenly considered some spine-tingling work of gothic fright (it's not). Maybe they're getting it confused with LeFanu?
Interestingly, the collection can be considered offensive by our modern
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Quiver
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Perhaps I am mistaken, but it seems to me that if you saw Hell through a small window, it would be far more horrific than if you were able to see the place in its entirety.


Thematically, all six short stories all contain a she-devil, a he-dandy, and a strong moral message delivered amidst shockingly gruesome circumstances. Barbey saw such stories as being in keeping with his Catholic faith. Indeed, according to him, Catholicism was unshockable and ultimately accepting of audacious art from which
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Polen
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book quite a lot. The stories may not be as diabolique as they might at first seem, but one can feel how shocking and scandalous they would be during their time. It's an easy read for people like me who are more into the stories of people than the stories themselves. D'Aurevilly puts great emphasis on the characters, along with their history, feelings and experiences. The stories are all from a third persons point of view: some from the author's, some from another "narrator".

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Kai Weber
There's a lot of black romanticism in here, going all the way to bloody horror in the last story, but Barbey d'Aurevilly's style is not interested in creating tension, but more in describing states. That's the dandy background, probably. While those stories have one supernatural foot in the earlier romantic literature, the dandyism foot is standing in the mid-19th century society. And then, yes, he's a three-footed beast, there's the bluntness and horror casting a shadow on the modern times to ...more
Megan
May 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was much more enjoyable than I originally anticipated. It has confirmed my very particular proclivity for 19th century erudite French smut.

D'Aurevilly is a master storyteller, and the melodrama with which he conveys these stories is superb. I don't usually require a strong storyline to keep my interest engaged in a work, so it was a welcome surprise to be so engaged by it here.

This oft-overlooked collection should be more visible than it currently is within the realm of left of field
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Keith Davis
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is it possible to admire a book and be disgusted by it at the same time? The stores in this collection by 19th century French author Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly feature wicked amoral women who drive men to adultery, crime, and despair. The stories are all narrated by men, usually relating their story of sin and regret to a younger man. It would be easy to dismiss Barbey d'Aurevilly as a misogynist, but he describes his "she-devils" in such enraptured detail that it is hard to believe he does not ...more
Jim Rayder
I found a 1961 edition translated as "The She Devils", wonder what it's going under these days. Barbey (that's real surname--he tacked on the rest to fake nobility) is an odd writer who essentially writes trash with great panache. I read only four of the six stories; the book descends as it goes along, is very overwritten, though rich in description, proto-black humor and capturing characters' vocal inflections. Although flawed, it is unique, however ultimately minor.
Barbey is a sort of Nerval
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Emilie de Saint Martin
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
My favorites were La Vengeance d'une femme and Le Bonheur dans le Crime. Some of the descriptions were really beautiful because of how atmospheric they were, especially the description of the church in Un Diner d'Athées. It is at the frontier between romanticism and gothic, which I especially liked and in the stories it tells, reminded me a bit of Edgar Allan Poe.
Rachel Carr
Jun 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I received this from a goodreads giveaway.

The stories were certainly interesting, but the writing style takes some getting used to. Translation seemed well done - I enjoy reading books from this time period so it was enjoyable to discover a new author.
Julia Poncho
Interesting but too confusing at times. The storytelling isn't really linear, we lose the plot sometimes.
Joseph Delcourt
Outdated, rather pompous and quickly boring
Scope
Aug 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Some of these short stories are very good and it’s rather difficult to rate.
Chanel Rastings
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am stunned this is a classic.
sch
Sep 07, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barbey was at least morally right to say in his Preface that having read Les Diaboliques, no one would wish to read it again -- though the book's popularity tells a different tale. Whether he was correct to add that this aversion-inducing quality is precisely "what comprises the morality of a book" is questionable. (For a translation of the preface, go here.)

The first story may be the best of the six - it ends with a numinous thrill. The last, which turns out remarkably frightening, begins with
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Howard
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: naughty-classic
These are a set of six almost novella length stories completed in 1871. They are remarkably clever and subtle which develop almost as understated ‘tales of the unexpected’. They are a constant simmer of literary 1800s French realism possibly depicting the women leads as the cause of degeneration (though the stories are told by a key male) – I understand much like Madame Bovary et al it was suppressed by the French Ministry of Justice as it was believed to be a danger to public morals.

‘The
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Alik
Feb 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is indeed funny, how this book combines the genuine horror of a young officer whose hand has been touched by a hand of a young woman under the dinner table in the first novella (Le rideau cramoisi) with the graphic mutilation and torture scenes, or with eighty nuns raped by two escadrons and thrown into a well while still alive in the last novellas.
Style sample (makes me wanna turn it into an intertitle in a silent film): "Notre amour avait eu la simultanéité de deux coups de pistolet tirés
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Michelle Arredondo
I just want to give a big ole' thanks to the goodreads Powers-that-be for my win on this book Diaboliques: Six Tales of Decadence!!...It was an interesting read. I had a little trouble getting through it...often having to remind myself that this is an old book come to life through this new translation of these stories. Perverse...dark...sinister...diabolique??....maybe for those times but not for this day and age. I didn't hate the book but I did not love it. To be fair, maybe I need to go back ...more
Michael Zendejas
Some may find the tales in this collection of short stories to be a bit extreme, which is understandable. I believe this was published as part of a Decadent collection, which should immediately warn the reader that the content won't exactly be moral or even appropriate. Personally, I found it to be awesome (particularly the last story). Though his prose isn't strong, Barbey produced an imaginative work that will have the reader on the edge of their seats in horror, astonishment, and often times ...more
Pat
Aug 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very interesting stories that were written and then translated from the 1600's to the 1800's. Shows the depth of writing and thoughts, that definitely permeated society during the above time frames. The stories were thought provoking, often twisted, in their means to convey the diabolical levels that others would go to during that time. The stories achieved the sort of lasting impression, that would leave you thinking and maybe not sleeping after reading them. Goodreads winner on this one, thank ...more
Jack
Feb 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though this collection of short stories has the reputation of being an expose of the evils of womankind, in nearly every instance their "evil" is a last recourse due to the malignancy of a male dominated society. D'Aurevilly combines outlandish scenes and beautiful, sometimes philosophic, writing.
Leniw
Apr 27, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I probably started this book with too high expectations and maybe this is why I was disappointed by it. Some stories were interesting but overall it was very predictable. I guess that if I read it in 1870s when it was first published it would make a huge impression on me but not today.
Gediminas
Jul 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Storytelling at its best: six short stories sharing a common theme and style.

I thoroughly enjoyed them, as they were very well-written - the author has an exceptional command of language, as well as knows how to slowly build up intrigue and drama.
Andreea
Jul 21, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It was bad. Too boring - the stories, the characters, the writer. I couldn't even finish it.
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Jules-Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly was a novelist and literary critic at the Bonapartist paper Le Pays who was influential among fin-de-siècle decadents.
He specialised in mystery tales that explored hidden motivation and hinted at evil without being explicitly concerned with anything supernatural. He had a decisive influence on writers such as Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Henry James and Marcel
...more
“For in Paris, whenever God puts a pretty woman there (the streets), the Devil, in reply, immediately puts a fool to keep her.” 54 likes
“Extreme civilization robs crime of its frightful poetry, and prevents the writer from restoring it. That would be too dreadful, say those good souls who want everything to be prettified, even the horrible. In the name of philanthropy, imbecile criminologists reduce the punishment, and inept moralists the crime, and what is more they reduce the crime only in order to reduce the punishment. Yet the crimes of extreme civilization are undoubtedly more atrocious than those of extreme barbarism, by virtue of their refinement, of the corruption they imply and of their superior degree of intellectualism. ("A Woman's Vengeance")” 11 likes
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