Wednesday 18 November 2009
La-Bas, or The Damned, is a novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans, a French writer of particular and idiosyncratic genius. I read this book last year with complete fascination. It took such hold of my imagination that I rushed through it in the course of an afternoon.
The novel focuses on the writer by the name of Durtal, who is researching the life of Gilles de Rais, one time companion of Joan of Arc, who turned to devil worship and child murder in an attempt to restore his lost fortunes. In the course of his research Durtal discovers that Satanism is not just something that belongs in the Middle-Ages, but is actively alive in contemporary France. He eventually attends a black mass.
The whole thing is quite fascinating, but for me the most fascinating thing of all was the character of De Rais himself, an individual I had never heard of prior to reading this novel. I tried so hard to fid out more about his life but the English sources are so scanty. Anyway, he remains for me one of the great demonic figures, whose only true partner is Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess herself.