Les Diaboliques (book)
Original frontispiece by Félicien Rops
|Original title||Les Diaboliques|
Les Diaboliques (The She-Devils) is a collection of short stories written by Barbey d'Aurevilly and published in France in 1874. Each story features a woman who commits an act of violence, or revenge, or some other crime. It is considered d'Aurevilly's masterpiece.
D'Aurevilly, due to the boredom induced by bourgeois life in the Second French Republic, was a dandy. Similarly, the acts committed by the characters in these stories are induced not only by their extreme passion but also by their boredom. Some of the characters spend hours playing whist while others take delight in wearing fine clothes. All of the female characters are best at concealing their passions and are strong, independent instigators.
D'Aurevilly uses récit parlé, a bracketing narrative, as a structural tool for five of the six short stories.
D'Aurevilly wrote "The Crimson Curtain" in 1866. "The Greatest Love of Don Juan" followed in 1867. In 1870, d'Aurevilly retired to the Contentin Peninsula and finished the collection.
When the collection was first published in France in 1874, it caused up an uproar with the French public and the work was declared a danger to public morality and the Public Prosecutor issued orders for its seizure on the grounds of blasphemy and obscenity. D'Aurevilly defended the work, albeit tongue-in-cheek, by saying that he himself was a Christian and the stories demonstrated the battle of good against evil.
A second edition was published in 1882. Dedalus Books published an English-language version in 1996.
- "The Crimson Curtain": An old vicomte tells a younger friend about his first sexual experience with a woman.
- "The Greatest Love of Don Juan": An aged playboy, surrounded by past lovers, relates the tale of his greatest love affair.
- "Happiness in Crime": A comte falls in love with a skilled fencer and hires her as his wife's maid.
- "Beneath the Cards of a Game of Whist": The secret affair of a lady and an expert whist player leads to an horrific act.
- "At a Dinner of Atheists": A French officer relates a tale of love and lust with the wife of one of his fellow officers.
- "A Woman's Revenge": A wealthy princess spurns her ignoble husband by becoming a cheap prostitute.
- Robert Irwin. Barbey D'Aurevilly and the Satanism of Appearance in Les Diaboliques, 11-14. (Dedalus: Langford Lodge, St Judith's Lane Sawtry, Cambs, 1996).