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View all 13 comments. Jun 09, Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing Shelves: libertines-dandies-decadents , short-stories. Are you always going to be as hot-headed and impatient as you are before the enemy? Let me make my story manoeuvre as I like. These stories are each above 15, words in length--close to the length of a short novella, twice the length of the average long short story--and each tells a tale of female sexuality and evil that is memorable, extremely daring for its time, and still packs a considerable punch.

Still, I imagine many readers will occasionally be frustrated--as I initially was--both by the wealth of detailed observation of each social milieu and also by the extraordinary length of each of the framing narratives--often as long as the tales themselves.

Soon, though, I learned to "keep to the ranks," and accept the fact that my general Barbey d'Aurevilly was in charge of maneuvers. As soon as I did so, I found that the portraits in the frame stories themselves--superannuated dandies, elegant roues, provincial monarchist nobles, free-thinking followers of the Emperor in exile--are not only just as interesting as the tales of female perfidy themselves, but often hold the key to the male-dominated world that calls forth this "diabolic" behavior in woman.

Somewhat eccentric, but a unique and influential book. Not to be missed by anyone interested in the literature of decadence. View 1 comment.

Jan 18, Warwick rated it really liked it Shelves: short-stories , fiction , decadence , france , paris , normandy. He was no longer thinking about her beauty. He was looking at her as if he wanted to attend her autopsy. These stories are obsessed with the Romanticism of high emotion and the sublime — He was no longer thinking about her beauty. Each story centres on a woman whose passions prove fatal, for her or for someone else. But although the women are so central to what happens, they are all so remote and unknowable, with utterly mysterious motives — like characters from a folktale.

Les Diaboliques by Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly

We know them only through the men that endlessly discuss them, lust after them, or hate them. They are — brace yourself as I reach for this adjective — positively sphingine , by which I mean cool, beautiful, mysterious and deadly. Nothing interior illuminated the outside of this woman. And nothing from the outside had any effect on her interior. Although not the most shocking, this tale was in some ways my favourite, and passed the test of a good short story — that it works perfectly as an anecdote.

The Screen: A Chiller of a Thriller; 'Diabolique,' a French Film, at Fine Arts

I told it to my wife over a pint in the pub and she had her hand over her mouth with tension. The ending of The Crimson Curtain is very artful, in that almost everything that matters is left unresolved and up in the air. What gives expression to both are the silences more than the harmonies. The original title for the collection was Conversational Ricochets. For all that these conversations may seem hopelessly dated to some readers now, there is a real cumulative effect building as you work your way through, and the last couple of stories here pack quite a punch.

Impossible to imagine anything like this being published in England in It takes in a surprisingly frank sex scene and includes a moment of almost medieval violence and jealousy. Barbey was basically a royalist disillusioned by France's endless social revolutions, and he was sceptical about life in a democratic future. Instead of cheap moralising and hookers with hearts of gold, he gives you deep emotional doubt and damaged, incomprehensible strangers.

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View all 20 comments. Sep 11, J. It may be that creatures of that sort love deception for deception's sake, as others love art for art's sake, or as the Poles love battles. First and foremost, d'Aurevilly is concerned, enchanted, and perhaps obsessed by les dames du salon, and the more clever and deceptive, the better appreciated. He will concede that his Royalist, Catholic codes are double-edged, double-sided, even, and can be reversed for interesting effect.

And he knows that for the gallant gentleman's heroi It may be that creatures of that sort love deception for deception's sake, as others love art for art's sake, or as the Poles love battles. And he knows that for the gallant gentleman's heroic domain is still the field of battle, whilst for les femmes it is, as ever, the drawing room. The tales of Les Diaboliques are themselves deceptive, though, and shouldn't be anticipated as revelling in decadence and the dark side. Rather, the author seems to be mining a hidden seam of pre-revolutionary morality tale, stories that are, with careful framing by d'Aurevilly, mounted in circumstances that only appear to imply that potential for decadence.

Les diaboliques (Folio) (French Edition)

These are romances, but play out tauntingly, as if directed by theater-of-cruelty practitioners. I myself, in my childhood, saw--no, saw isn't the right word--I guessed, I sensed one of those cruel, terrible dramas which are not staged in public, although the public sees the actors in them every day: one of those sanguinary comedies , as Pascal called them, but presented in secret, behind the curtain of private life Arranged sometimes like jewels around a perfumed neckline, but more often candle-lit around a grand dinner table, the ladies are the preoccupation, but there are also dandies, libertines, rakes, and warlords.

Duchesses here may become whores in the course of the proceedings, true loves may become ghosts, and atheists may burn with the inner flame of the martyrs. M d'Aurevilly prepares the ground like a medieval siege, layering exposition and revelation in carefully patient steps, extreme at times. But when he throws the switch and lets his drama unfold, he soars. Like some gothic seer who has most certainly got a message to send, for d'Aurevilly it is a given that pride, loss, shame, sin, and guilt really never go away. But there is something else.

There is here, in Paris after midnight or in the windswept environs of provincial Cotentin, the flavor of the long-ago, the frisson of someone-else's world, not ours It is the receding coastline of the Age Of Faith. Beneath his well composed equilibrium, the author can't escape the vexing sense that the Age Of Reason, newly arrived, has thrown some gorgeous white magic to the winds, a never-again state of grace now lost Night was beginning to fall in the streets of , but in the church of that picturesque little town in Western France it was already dark.

Night is almost always in advance in churches. It falls earlier there than anywhere else,, either on account of the stained-glass windows, when there are stained-glass windows, or on account of the number of pillars, so often compared with the trees in a forest, and the shadows cast by the arches. But scarcely anywhere are the doors closed because this night of the churches has slightly anticipated the death of the day outside.

They generally remain open after the Angelus has rung--sometimes till a very late hour, as on the eve of the great feast-days in pious towns, where great numbers of people go to confession in preparation for communion the next day. Never, at any hour of the day, are churches in the provinces more frequented by churchgoers than at that twilight hour when work comes to an end, daylight fades, and the Christian soul prepares for the night--night which resembles death, and during which death may come. At that hour it is borne in on one that the Christian religion was born in the catacombs and that it still retains something of the melancholy of its cradle While d'Aurevilly is an equal opportunity reporter, and will hurl a few anti-clericalisms with the best of them, at heart he longs, at one with his romantic sensibilities, for the days of a more profound certainty, a prior understanding.

Lovely book, probably best to buy it and savor each of these near-novella tales individually, rather than as a string of stories; they're similar but each has a unique quality. The last, called A Woman's Vengeance , is nothing short of devastating. Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly has written a strange, but beautifully composed set of decadent short stories.

The unifying theme is a set of heroines who are intent on vengeance, crime, or violence. Typical are the old soldiers in "At a Dinner of Atheists," in which the conversation turns to women: All took part in this abuse of women, even the oldest, the toughest Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly has written a strange, but beautifully composed set of decadent short stories.

Typical are the old soldiers in "At a Dinner of Atheists," in which the conversation turns to women: All took part in this abuse of women, even the oldest, the toughest, and those most disgusted with females, as they cynically called women -- for a man may give up sex love but he will retain his self-love in talking about women; and though on the edge of the grave, men are always ready to root with their snouts in the garbage of self-conceit.

Even when the company is mixed, as in "The Crimson Curtain," the ambiance is masculine, upper-class, and deeply cynical. Les Diaboliques: reminds me of such works as Joris Karl Huysmans , author of Against Nature and other decadent tales redolent with the pessimism that followed in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune.

Although Les Diaboliques is about women, I do not think women would like it, as the viewpoint is so exclusively masculine. Still, I liked it enough to consider seeking out other of his works which may have been rendered into English. Quite a good read. Perhaps a bit stiff for some, but these varied tales of male and female relations must have been shocking at the time and a few still manage to disturb.

D'Aurevilly writes almost exclusively of the defeated, wealthy class of French monarchists, left to languish as society and history passes them by. Most are set either in D'Aurevilly's sometimes-hometown of Valognes or, of course, Paris. Interestingly, they are all told as stories within a story, so the intruiged and shocked re Quite a good read. Interestingly, they are all told as stories within a story, so the intruiged and shocked reactions of the listeners are included in the tale, perhaps as social commentary or, perhaps, for the reader to judge their personal reaction against.

The stories are as follows no spoilers involved. It is a story of boredom, the bland couple who gave him barracks as a youth and their young daughter with whom he begins a torrid but necessarily silent affair under the nose of her parents.

see url The story has an almost Poe-like quality as it creates a rarefied mood of passion, silence and obsession. He tells a bittersweet tale of a past lover and her daughter. To tell you the truth, I found this one entertaining but the ending kind of opaque. Any other readers like to enlighten me with a spoiler warning, of course. She regales him with the story of a passionless marriage, a brazen affair, a shocking murder and her ultimate, extended revenge. If any of those sound interesting, seek ye out this book! I'm not giving it five stars because I felt like it dragged a bit a few times could have removed a page or two.

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In time of Revolution this ascendancy is fiercely combated; it still makes itself felt by virtue of the very reaction it provokes.