TRANSACTIONS OF THE FLESH: A HOMAGE TO JORIS-KARL HUYSMANS
Edited by D.P. Watt & Peter Holman
Publication Date: July 2013
‘There is only one resource left to avoid the horrors of daily life ... never raise your eyes. Maintain a permanent attitude of timid modesty. Look down at the pavement at all times. When you do that, you see the reflections of the electric signs which assume all manner of shapes: alchemical symbols, the armorial bearings of alchemists on raised plinths, cog-wheels, talismanic characters, bizarre pentacles with suns, hammers and anchors; and you can imagine yourself right back in the Middle Ages.’
J.-K. Huysmans, Là Bas
A glorious but wretched century collapses into ennui, and weariness tramples upon desire. Learning and loving are no longer enough to satiate the soul ravaged by innumerable symbols or the body exultant in vice; the grey streets and the plush boudoirs are alive with meaning and hopeless depravity. Briefly the senses are flushed by possibilities as tempting as the roseate antirrhinum of a forbidden aperture; somewhere great mechanical reptiles skulk through the artificial foliage of a vast indoor forest. Girls stretch out their bodies to the clash of cymbals; incense of sandalwood and myrrh rises from the pyre of immortal longing. The lust abates, the boulevard, bar and brothel wane, eclipsed by the pursuit of perfect, hermetic, solitary, entertainments; the rich palate bursts with the sharp purple chocolate of Oporto wine, the eyes aflame with the mystery of light upon paint, the fingers caressing a singular volume bound in soft leather whose linen pages are as perfect as skin, the air swells with laudi spirituali opening voices to the polyphony of the soul, the atmosphere is heavy with intoxicating animal and human scents, each tracing the elements in the opulence of rare plants and exotic oils; but nothing, nothing!, can erase the eternally withering spirit; the sensualist demurs. Des Esseintes dreams of a snug, immoveable ark where he can at last take refuge, far from the incessant deluge of human folly. M. Bougran lovingly recreates his office in his own apartment, sets himself impossibly complex legal cases to solve, and even hires a superannuated office assistant to make the illusion complete. M. Durtal senses the foetid breath of Satan in his nostrils and loses himself in stained glass reverie. The bodies of the martyrs are torn with sharp combs of brass while the hungers of the flesh are such that men are all too happy to snaffle the leftovers of love. Eros, Agape and Caritas pace secluded groves in a melancholy sarabande. The walls of the chateau are hung with phantasmagorical armoria. The dandy smokes yet another cigarette. The finest foods are but Dead Sea fruits, dust and ashes upon the tongue. Pullulating disease festers beneath the flesh of saint and sinner alike, yet ‘Providence was merciful to me, and the Virgin kind.’ The soul yearns for comfort yet dreads satiety. All around, the swarming multitudes of the city inscribe their ignorance on the blackened brickwork, carving their inanities into the very stones. ‘All is here,’ sings the Siren, ‘yet nothing that you desire.’ Literature, music, art, philosophy, the teachings of the Nazarene, the whispered beguilements of the Fiend, the carven visage of the gargoyle, the forlorn kiss of the abandoned and the despairing; for us all the choice is the same; the muzzle of the pistol or the foot of the cross.
‘Lord, take pity on the Christian who doubts, on the unbeliever who would fain believe, on the galley- slave of life who puts out to sea alone, in the night, beneath a firmament no longer lit by the consoling beacon fires of the ancient hope!.’
J.-K. Huysmans, À Rebours
We are looking for:
· Original works of fiction, Naturalist vignettes, decadent visions infused with diabolism, dreamy reflections on the spirit of art or the art of the spirit, hagiographies of the criminal and fantasies of the saints. Diagnose our infernal disease, assail us with exultant mysticism and the sovereignty of the cadaver, give us paradise aflame and purge us with ascetic hallucinations; we want sacred whores, the substitution of orifices for stigmata, bodies for the sacrificial slaughter or the redemption of the flesh. Grind the vermilion ink with pestles of polished basalt, inscribe the smouldering sigil upon the finest vellum.
· Any length.
· Multiple submissions are OK. But no previously published works.
· Deadline: 1 May 2013.
· Publication Date: July 2013.
· Details about the book: over-sized hardcover, cloth boards with decorative folio, dust jacket, textured end papers, a full-colour frontispiece and other inserts.
· All submissions should be sent to both firstname.lastname@example.org and D.P.Watt@lboro.ac.uk
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