Durtal, a shy, censorious man, is writing a biography of Gilles de Rais, the monstrous fifteenth-century child-murderer thought to be the original for 'Bluebeard'. Bored and disgusted by the vulgarity of everyday life, Durtal seeks spiritual solace by immersing himself in another age. But when he starts asking questions about Gilles's involvement in satanic rituals and is introduced to the exquisitely evil madame Chantelouve, he is soon drawn into a twilight world of black magic and erotic devilry in fin-de- siecle Paris. Published in 1891, The Damned cemented Huysmans's reputation as a writer at the forefront of the avant-garde and as one of the most challenging and innovative figures in European literature.
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