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(Durtal #1)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  3,053 ratings  ·  212 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.
Paperback, 287 pages
Published 1972 by Dover Publications (first published 1891)
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Ayshe By critique you mean book's description: ...practitioner of all the black arts. The book's authentic, extraordinarily detailed descriptions of the…moreBy critique you mean book's description: ...practitioner of all the black arts. The book's authentic, extraordinarily detailed descriptions of the Black Mass have never been surpassed....? That was imported, not set by goodreads user and you can find it in a lot a places, for example:

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Bill Kerwin

La-bas (English Down There)--with its explicit account of child sex-murders and its detailed description of a black mass—may benefit from its transgressive reputation but also suffers from it too. Readers who come to it seeking thrills and horrors will be alternately bored and disappointed, while serious readers, concerned—as Huymans was—with the spiritual and moral decline of civilization may be repelled by the books' shocking incidents and never read it at all.

Outwardly, the book's author Huymans le
Glenn Russell
Jun 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing

“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.”
― Joris-Karl Huysmans, Là-Bas

Barbey d'Aurevilly compared Joris-Karl Huysmans to Baudelaire, recalling: "After Les Fleurs du mal I told Baudelaire it only remains for you to choose between the muzzle of the pistol and the foot of the Cross. But will the author of À rebours make the same choice?"

His prediction eventually proved true when Huysmans converted to Catholicism in the 1890s.
Oct 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french-lit
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
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
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 mysti
Dec 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Vit Babenco
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“You believe pretty thoroughly in these things, or you wouldn't abandon the eternal triangle and the other stock subjects of the modern novelists to write the story of Gilles de Rais, I do not object to the latrine; hospital; and workshop vocabulary of naturalism. For one thing, the subject matter requires some such diction.”
Every phenomenon begets its opposite. God had begotten devil. Good had begotten evil and they coexist so Gilles de Rais goes hand in hand with Joan of Arc. And virtues
Sep 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For years I’ve been having a dream, a recurring nightmare, which features me and whoever I am in a relationship with at the time. In this dream nothing out of the ordinary happens, except that I am convinced that my partner is evil, is, specifically, possessed by something evil. Indeed, on one occasion I actually pushed the girl with whom I was sharing my bed away from me while I slept, believing her to be demonic. It is not, of course, difficult to interpret this dream, but, outside of any subc ...more
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: decadence
Durtal is a writer who is concerned about how naturalism can’t convey the spiritual, the ethereal. Weary of contemporary writers and their ways, he wants to discuss literature and art without monetary gains, removed from the crass opinions of contemporary readers. There is a longing for a spiritual subtext in his life, an urge to explore his transcendental thoughts. As he works on his book on the life of the infamous Gilles de Rais, he sees a similarity in de Rais’ quest for mysticism and his ow ...more
Dec 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Down There (Là-Bas)

To begin with, you meet Durtal, inconsistent seeker of truths about Gilles de Rais, an infamous child murderer during the 15th century.

Soon, Durtal becomes familiar with the Carhaix couple, both Catholics, the husband a Breton bellringer, happy with living as a recluse in his aerie ; Durtal also mingles with the Chantelouve couple, both of whom are active spiritists, and Gévingey, a warped astrologian.

The novel evolves by backs and forths, and Durtal, study()
Nate D
Oct 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Lee Foust
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
In many ways I find La Bas to be the perfect novel. It's dual structure, half Durtal's flirtation with Satanism due to his curiosity combined with book research (note the thematic similarity to Apuleius's Golden Ass!), and half the story of noble medieval knight and child murderer Gilles de Rais, the book that Durtal's writing, is captivating and a wonderfully thoughtful parallel. Together, the two stories construct the novel's theme: the premise that spirituality--like almost everything else--had, by 18 ...more
Roxana Russo
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"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
J. K. Huysmans in Là-Bas takes as his subject the reverse of Christian mysticism, namely: The mysticism of evil. His leading character, Durtal, is writing a book about the 15th century monster, Gilles de Rais, who murdered small children for pleasure. He is like the narrator of Sartre's Nausea, who is writing about a fictional character named Antoine Roquentin.

Durtal is part of a small circle of intellectuals which includes his physician friend Des Hermies; the devout bell-ringer of St-Sulpice, Carhais;
Oct 17, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, book-club-2
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
Nancy Oakes
Actually, I started this either the 21st or 22nd of this month so it wasn't a 2-day read. Blitzing through this book is impossible -- it demands time. Now it demands thought so I'll be back to talk about this one later.

I will say now that 1) anyone who's in it strictly for the horror elements is probably going to be disappointed -- it works on a much deeper level; 2) I switched back and forth (for a newer, more modern translation) between this Dover edition that I've owned for eons and the newe
Aug 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-list
“The only people who are worth knowing are either saints, scoundrels or madmen; at least their conversation is always interesting.”

Unfortunately, the protagonist of Là-Bas was none of the above; he spent most of his time bellyaching about the modern age and flailing around in a surprisingly bromidic love affair. Thankfully, at least the descriptions of Gilles de Rais’ hijinks were amusing. Overall, however, Huysmans’ language was nowhere near as potent as it was in the monumental À Rebours, and the novel tended to vacil
Oct 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Aug 14, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book but was expecting to like it a lot more.

This would be more powerful if read by candlelight, in the quiet of the night, by a devout believer; instead of by table lamp, by an atheist with cars driving by the window. Still, the book has a certain eerie power, and some moments of savory decadence, along with some shocking descriptions of Gilles de Rais and his crimes.

To me the most interesting parts of the book were the conversations of Durtal with his fri
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, crime, translation
A charming book about a writer at the end of the 19th century and his circle of friends who are all obsessed with the Middle Ages and gather to discuss art, astrology, bell ringing, magic, Satanism and the unspeakable crimes of Gilles de Rais.
Read again
Nov 20 - 23

Durtal researches the infamous Gilles de Rais' crimes and the occult, finds himself immersed in the very much alive satanic scene of 1890's France.
Oct 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
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
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,
Jon Ureña
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, horror
An odd book I wasn't sure how to rate. On one side, the vocabulary and the effort put into details is extraordinary. The author is witty and shares my view on humanity. On the other side, most of the text is gone in lengthy discussions about mystical bullshit, and what happens could have filled a much shorter book. But it gives an interesting window into living in nineteenth century Paris as a person detached from society, who gets his information either from books or gossip from the few people ...more
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Charles Marie Georges Huysmans was a 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

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Durtal (4 books)
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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.” 36 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.” 21 likes
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