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The Damned (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Joris-Karl Huysmans , Terry Hale
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Jun 2001 Penguin Classics

Joris-Karl Huysmans' shocking novel of an innocent's descent into a world of depraved, blasphemous rituals, The Damned (Là-Bas) caused a scandal when it was first published in nineteenth-century France. This Penguin Classics edition is translated with an introduction and notes by Terry Hale.

Durtal, a shy, censorious man, is writing a biography of Gilles de Rais, the monstrous fifteenth-century child-murderer thought to be the original for 'Bluebeard'. Bored and disgusted by the vulgarity of everyday life, Durtal seeks spiritual solace by immersing himself in another age. But when he starts asking questions about Gilles's involvement in satanic rituals and is introduced to the exquisitely evil madame Chantelouve, he is soon drawn into a twilight world of black magic and erotic devilry in fin-de- siècle Paris. Published in 1891, The Damned cemented Huysmans's reputation as a writer at the forefront of the avant-garde and as one of the most challenging and innovative figures in European literature.

In his introduction, Terry Hale discusses autobiographical aspects of this scandalous novel, Huysmans's fascination with occult practices, the real woman who inspired the character of Madame Chantelouve and other literary accounts of Gilles de Rais. This edition also includes further reading, a chronology and notes.

Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848-1907) is now recognized as one of the most challenging and innovative figures in European literature and an acknowledged principal architect of the fin-de-siècle imagination. He was a career civil servant who wrote ten novels, most notably A Rebours and Là-Bas.

If you enjoyed The Damned, you might like Huysmans's Against Nature (A Rebours), also available in Penguin Classics.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (28 Jun 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447679
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447675
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 12.8 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 67,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848-1907) is now recognized as one of the most challenging and innovative figures in European literature and an acknowledged principal architect of the fin-de-siècle imagination. He was a career civil servant who wrote ten novels, most notably A Rebours and Là-Bas.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The lure of darkness 21 Nov 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book is about late nights in dark garrets, intelligent discussions on the practice of satanism, and the imperious power of sexual dreams. The hero, Durtal, is writing a biography of Bluebeard- that Gilles de Rais who was both a Marshall of France and the killer of so many children at Tiffauges castle. The subject matter unbalances Durtal and he is himself driven towards exploring the darkness, as he attends the Black Mass. I recommend it highly to those looking for unusual books, and the decadent fringes of C19th Paris.
La Bas is part of a trilogy in which Durtal appears to lose himself and then comes back to God, in the second volume, after a stay at the Monastery of La Trappe (for which read 'En Route').
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not For Everyone 3 May 2008
By M. Dowden HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Huysmans' novel is a bit different from most books that you buy. If you are expecting a gory type of horror novel then you will be sorely disappointed.

This book is about Durtal, who is writing a biography of Gilles de Rais and his attrocious crimes. He spends most of the novel talking about his book, writing styles, religion, and mysticism. He usually discourses amongst his friends at a bell ringer's apartment.

Over half way through the book there is a bit of sex thrown in, and Durtal eventually gets to witness a Black Mass. So why would you read this book? The book ranges from the ridiculous to the absurd, with its arcane subject matter. The actual story isn't really what holds this book together but rather Huysmans' writing technique and narrative style. To be honest, Huysman could have written about going to buy a loaf of bread, and he would have still produced an emminently readable book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
'A Rebours' (trans. 'Against Nature'/'Against the Grain') is the more widely known work and certainly the most influential, yet it's this later novel that really delivers all of the crotchety art criticism, withering put-downs, florid description and pervy occult dabbling that you want from this still-underrated novelist. The best part? The strange Satanic investigations part-fictionalised in this novel were informed by Huysmans' own dangerous spiritual curiosity and correspondence with dodgy defrocked clerics. Basically, this is a must-read and, I have to say, still very shocking in certain parts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I first read the infamous 'Messe Noir' scene from this novel in a Peter Haining anthology during my 1970s boyhood and by the age of 20 had sought out this most unusual and exquisite work in the Dover edition and devoured it with avidity and fascination - I still love it, along with all the Master's novels (which form an integral whole) and they are amongst my all-time favourite books. Joris Karl Huysmans' 'La Bas' (Down There) is a novel set in the night-shrouded Paris of the fin-de-siecle imagination, the nocturnal facade of darkness behind which the deathless power of Evil lurks in strange places. Our hero Durtal is wearied by the positivistic modern world and the crass materialism and vulgarity of his age - he retreats into the High Middle Ages, absorbed in the life of the mass-murderer, paederast, pervert and demoniac Gilles de Rais about whom he is writing a biographical study - thus throughout the novel we are treated to the episodes of De Rais' career and infamies, a dark Symboliste evocation of the medieval world of Tiffauges, illuminated with exquisite literary artistry and in essence constituting a prolonged spiritual meditation upon Evil and the Satanic principle. Other episodes are set at those wonderful homely banquets on snow-swept nights in the tower of the bell-ringer Carhaix, an eccentric Catholic in the austere mediaeval mould - what one would give to have been present at those wintry evening gatherings with Durtal, Des Hermies and company...their erudite conversations are a pure delight. Read more ›
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