By Robert Ziegler
An interdisciplinary research of the supernatural and the occult in fin-de-siècle France (1870-1914), the current quantity examines the explosion of curiosity in devil-worship, magic and mysticism either from a ancient point of view and during research of key literary works of the period.
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It had degenerated, as Durtal argues, right into a “sentimental surgical aid, a religious truss. ”4 whereas naturalism had taken Huysmans outdoors, into the streets, his Decadent masterpiece, A rebours, barricades him in a cloistered global of artificiality. For the hero, Jean Floressas des Esseintes, art’s realm is an aestheticizing attention. viewers are forbidden in his retreat at Fontenay. Soundless servants donning slippers are consigned to the mansion’s higher flooring. Surviving on a vitamin of infrequent perfumes, flora, and poetry, des Esseintes admits no mistresses, etherealizing girls into stories. yet with removal of the skin international got here a longing for unreality, as des Esseintes furnishes his bed room with the austerity of an anchorite, amassing spiritual bibelots, consecrated custodials, and chasubles – and 4 Satanism, Magic and Mysticism in Fin-de-siècle France intuiting that past literature lies the area of the transcendental. Sharing the author’s skepticism, des Esseintes had scoffed on the “psychology of mysticism,” but had toyed with the belief of worshipping a divinity a rebours, summoning God by way of invoking devil, following a liturgy of sacrilege. Fantasies had come to him of “shameful and impure abuses of the holy water and the holy oil. ” He had imagined God’s antagonist, “a rival jam-packed with energy, the satan, [. . . ] cabbalistic excesses, black plenty, witches’ Sabbaths, ideas of exorcism, these kinds of got here into play. ”5 Foreshadowed by means of des Esseintes’s dilettantish curiosity in diabolism, Huysmans’s personal direction towards conversion had led him to an research of the Satanic, either in medieval heritage and within the truth of latest Paris. In Huysmans’s blockbuster novel at the mysteries of satan worship, he provides an image of the occult global in fin-desiècle France. There, as Richard D. E. Burton claims, Huysmans’s “reader earnings entry to a curious and demanding (anti)religious underworld, half genuine, half inverted, during which spiritualism, sexual perversion, and insanity intersect, populated via women and men who, thirsting for a few form of absolute gratification yet despairing of or adverse to orthodox Christianity, flip to Satanism as a manner out of the ‘materialist criminal condo’ of past due nineteenth-century France. ”6 Biographer Robert Baldick questions even if Huysmans ever witnessed a Black Mass of the sort he describes in a memorable bankruptcy of his novel. even though, Baldick’s observation underscores the ambiguous prestige of Huysmans’s booklet, in addition to the advanced response it elicited from the general public. half novel, half documentary on modern Parisian mores, half archeological reconstruction of medieval Satanic practices, Huysmans’s textual content grew to become well known by means of attractive to audiences’ love of sensationalist invention in addition to to critical readers’ matters with the spiritual challenge of fine and evil. In his booklet, pederast choirboys with powdered cheeks and carmined lips attend a clergyman presiding over a ritual enveloped within the smoke of poisonous incense. In a later scene, Huysmans’s hero is taken to a squalid chophouse, to an upstairs bed room whose filthy bed is strewn with desecrated Hosts.