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Diaboliques

Six Tales of Decadence

2015
Author:

Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly
Translated by Raymond N. MacKenzie

Diaboliques

“Literature doesn’t express even half of the crimes that society commits behind closed doors.” —Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly

With its six trenchant tales of perverse love, this masterpiece of French decadent fiction returns Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly’s signature collection to its rightful place in the ranks of literary fiction. The stories of Diaboliques combine horror, comedy, and irony to explore the foibles of men and women whose aristocratic world offers neither comfort nor protection from romantic failure or sexual outrage.

Les Diaboliques are not deviltry; they are Diaboliques, real histories drawn from this era of ours, this era of progress, of such delicious and divine civilization that when I took it into my head to write them, I felt always as if the Devil were dictating!

Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, from the Preface

With its six trenchant tales of perverse love, Diaboliques proved so scandalous on its original appearance in 1874 that it was declared a danger to public morality and seized on the grounds of blasphemy and obscenity. More shocking in our day is how little known this masterpiece of French decadent fiction is, despite its singular brilliance and its profound influence on writers from Charles Baudelaire to Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde, J. K. Huysmans, and Walter Benjamin. This new, finely calibrated translation—the first in nearly a century—returns Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly’s signature collection to its rightful place in the ranks of literary fiction that tests the bounds of culture.

Psychologically intense in substance and style, the stories of Diaboliques combine horror, comedy, and irony to explore the affairs and foibles of men and women whose aristocratic world offers neither comfort nor protection from romantic failure or sexual outrage. Conquest and seduction, adultery and revenge, prostitution and murder—all are within Barbey d’Aurevilly’s purview as he penetrates the darker recesses of the human heart. Raymond N. MacKenzie, whose deft translation captures the complex expression of the original with its unique blend of the literary high and low, also includes an extensive introduction and notes, along with the first-ever translation of Barbey d’Aurevilly’s late story “A Page from History” and the important preface to his novel The Last Mistress.

Diaboliques

Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly (1808–1889) is one of the most notorious of decadent writers and the subject of a major critical and popular resurgence in France. His work has been adapted for film most recently by Catherine Breillat (The Last Mistress) and in the fifties by Alexandre Astruc (The Crimson Curtain, also the subject of a film planned in the 1920s by André Breton).

Raymond N. MacKenzie is professor of English at the University of St. Thomas. His recent translation of Zola’s Germinal was a finalist for the PEN Translation Prize, and his translation of Madame Bovary was included in the Norton Anthology of Western Literature.

Diaboliques

Les Diaboliques are not deviltry; they are Diaboliques, real histories drawn from this era of ours, this era of progress, of such delicious and divine civilization that when I took it into my head to write them, I felt always as if the Devil were dictating!

Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, from the Preface

An excellent translation of a long overlooked author that will appeal to French literature and history enthusiasts.

Library Journal, starred review

[A] superb translation.

The Arts Fuse

MacKenzie has accomplished a sorely needed and very readable new translation. . . MacKenzie’s updates the language and delivers important annotation while preserving the density and the eloquence of the original.

Los Angeles Review of Books

Diaboliques

Contents
Introduction Raymond N. MacKenzie
A Note on the Translation
Diaboliques
Preface to Les Diaboliques (1874)
The Crimson Curtain
Don Juan’s Finest Conquest
Happiness in Crime
Beneath the Cards in a Game of Whist
At a Dinner of Atheists
A Woman’s Vengeance
Appendixes
A Page from History—1606
Preface to The Last Mistress (1865)
Translator’s Notes