Huysmans' gaudy, shocking and largely autobiographical novel La-Bas was described by one critic as 'even more disquieting' than his masterpiece, A Rebours (Against Nature.)
It follows Durtal, a shy, censorious man, who is writing a biography of Gilles de Rais, the fifteenth-century child murderer and supposed original for 'Bluebeard'. Durtal is bored and disgusted by the vulgarity of everyday life and seeks spiritual solace by immersing himself in another age. But when he meets the exquisitely evil Madame Chantelouve, he is drawn into the twilight world of black magic and erotic devilry in fin-de-siecle Paris.
Huysmans' major novels have suffered censorship and condemnation; even his admirers thought him too preoccupied with the strange, exotic and unhealthy. Now he is recognised as one of the most challenging and innovative figures in European literature. La-Bas is, as Terry Hale says, 'a novel awaiting both legitimacy and rediscovery in English'.
About the Author
Born in Paris in 1848 and acknowledged as a principal architect of the fin-de-siecle imagination, Joris-Karl Huysmans was a career civil servant who wrote ten novels, most notably A Rebours (1884) and La-Bas (1891). Huysmans died in 1907.