This week’s flik is J. K. Huysmans’ Lá-Bas – A Journey Into the Self, from 1891.
And no, I have not forgotten that ‘tis the season of exams and tests, and the last thing people want to do is to struggle through a complicated old book, but hear me out: old does not necessarily equal boring.
The novel is about Durtal, who is writing a biography about Gilles de Rais, a knight who went from being the perfect Christian to being the perfect Satanist. Durtal wants to uncover exactly why de Rais made that change. He seeks help from his friend des Hermies, who introduces him to various people, including Paris’ last bell-ringer and France’s leading mystics.
The characters discuss everything from modern medicine to Joan of Arc, providing the reader with amazing amounts of information.
The novel has a lot of humor as well as historical facts, and it has been beautifully translated from French by Brendan King (But if you speak French, read it in French. Never read translations when you can read originals. I mean, why would you?).
I do recommend this novel. The descriptions of Durtal alone, makes Lá-Bas worth reading, and many of the topics discussed are still very relevant today.
Besides, it offers a nice break from all the reruns during Christmas.