Satanic Alchemy Atrocities of Gilles De Rais
Published by Sun Vision
214p, b&w, softcover, 5.5"X8.5"
On back cover book subject is listed as "History/Decadence" -EF
"Satanic Alchemy is a testament to the enduring myth of Gilles de Rais and his fantastic, if actually less frightening alter ego, Barbe-Bleue, and the way in which the two have fused in the popular imagination of centuries. The spectre of de Rais/Bluebeard has permeated French (and to a lesser degree pan-European) consciousness to almost as great an extent as that of the Marquis de Sade, to the point where Jules Michelet, in his History Of The French Revolution, could declare: "Societies perish under atrocity, the Middles Ages by a Gilles de Retz; the old order by de Sade, high priest of assassins”. This fascination applies equally to literature; of the surrealists, Georges Bataille in particular engaged with de Rais, closely examining his case in The Trial Of Gilles de Rais (1965), while Antonin Artaud in the first manifesto of his Theatre Of Cruelty (1932) saw in a putative reconstruction of the Bluebeard story the chance for a "new notion of eroticism and cruelty”. While Bataille's interests remain historical and anthropological, the story of Gilles de Rais has attracted as many novelists as historians, drawn to the mythopoeic aura of this most enigmatic of mass-murderers. The first notable literary advocate of Gilles de Rais remains J-K Huysmans, famous for his novel A Rebours and its quintessential decadent, Des Esseintes. Huysmans' later novel La-Bas (1891), a virtual apology for Satanism, is threaded by a version of the de Rais story as narrated by the book's protagonist, Durtal. Punctuated by the author's own poetic interventions, this account depicts de Rais as an arch-decadent beset by demonic visions and ravening sexual manias - "the 15th century Des Esseintes”. The most intriguing entry in Satanic Alchemy must be the first ever English translation of Huysmans' pamphlet La Sorcellerie En Poitou (also known as La Magie En Poitou), published in 1897 in a limited edition for private circulation only. Described by Huysmans as a reductionist, non-fiction version of La-Bas, it demonstrates the ongoing fascination exerted by de Rais over the author. Satanic Alchemy continues with three more views of de Rais by notable, but very differing, authors: Valentine Penrose, Sabine Baring-Gould, and Georges Bataille. Beautifully translated from the original French by Alexander Trocchi, Valentine Penrose's evocation of the de Rais legend is taken from The Bloody Countess (1952), her classic account of Elizabeth Bathory."