Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Durtal’s apartment

Durtal’s apartment. Set of rooms in a house on Paris’s rue du Regard; they contain the compact book-lined study where the scholar Durtal works on his dissertation on Gilles de Rais, a French marshal briefly associated with Joan of Arc. The dust is frequently disturbed and redistributed, but never diminished, by a surly concierge. Over the mantelpiece, in place of a mirror, is an old Dutch painting whose principal figure is a kneeling hermit with a cardinal’s hat and cloak set beside him. The bedroom is sparsely furnished but decorated with a photograph of a Sandro Botticelli Venus and a print of Peter Breughel’s representation of “The Wise and Foolish Virgins.” All this is symbolic, as is only to be expected from the author, Joris-Karl Huysmans, a central figure of the French Symbolist movement

Chantelouve’s house

Chantelouve’s house. Residence on the rue de Bagneaux of a Roman Catholic historian who supplies Durtal with information—and whose wife, Hyacinthe, becomes Durtal’s mistress and guide to the occult underworld of Paris. Chantelouve hosts regular “salons” in his drawing room, where disputatious visitors gather to discuss theological matters and the debased state of contemporary society. The house also has a well-stocked library, where more confidential discussions take place.

*Church of Saint-Sulpice

*Church of Saint-Sulpice (sah[n]-sewl-pees). One of the most famous churches in Paris, built by King Louis XIV. The church became notorious...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Baldick, Robert. The Life of J.-K. Huysmans. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1955. A useful biography, which sets Down There in the context of Huysmans’ own explorations of the occult.

Birkett, Jennifer. The Sins of the Fathers: Decadence in France 1870-1914. London: Quartet Books, 1986. A useful study of the Decadent movement. Part 2, chapter 1 discusses Huysmans’ work.

Brandreth, Henry R. T. Huysmans. London: Bowes & Bowes, 1963. A biographical and critical study. Down There is discussed in chapter 4, “The Devil with His Hooked Claw.”

Carter, A. E. The Idea of Decadence in French Literature 1830-1900. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1958. One chapter, “Fin-de-Siècle,” includes a discussion of Down There and its relationship to other works of the period.

Lloyd, Christopher. J.-K. Huysmans and the Fin-de-Siècle Novel. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1990. Down There is discussed in terms of its relevance to all four of the book’s thematic headings: “Words,” “Women,” “Monsters,” and “Magic.”