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Là-Bas (Down There)
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1001 book reviews > Down There (La-Bas)- Joris-Karl Huysmans

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Amanda Dawn | 1152 comments Book about the occult and Satanism in what was at the time contemporary France (aka the 1890s). It follows a novelist, Durtal, who has a fixation on the middle ages. He starts learning about alleged child-murderer, occultist, and contemporary of Joan of Arc- Gilles de Rais- through his medievalist contacts, and finds out that the occultism he practiced is still alive. Apparently, it is heavily linked to the Catholic Church, and black masses require a real priest (fortunately he seems to know one who knows...a lot about this). His mistress turns out to be extremely in the know as well, and an investigation into the dark underworld is on.

In the day, this book was seen as so raunchy and shocking for public mass –sale. Nowadays, it doesn’t pack nearly the same punch, which is the sad inevitable fate of shock based art I suppose (unless you go to the furthest possible extreme immediately ala Marquis de Sade I guess). This book doesn’t go quite that hard. I appreciate how this book likely help create or popularize a lot of the tropes and features of modern horror and occult media, but given that we commonly encounter these features now, the originality of this book is lost for me as a modern reader.

So, ultimately, I found it fine but not extremely exciting, although I respect that my appreciation has likely been tainted by this book being a establishing piece of now cliché and popular media. I gave it 3 stars.


Diane  | 2050 comments Rating: 4 stars

Creepy story about a man from 19th France and his obsession with a real-life serial killer from the 15th century. There are some gruesome parts, which must have been extremely shocking for 19th century readers. The book is unusual in that it masterfully interweaves a lot of things together into a relatively short book. The writing is exceptional, so that helped offset the less than pleasant subject matter.


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