Drainage of the Psyche


Joris Karl Huysmans, author of A Rebours, called the “breviary of decadence,” and La Bas, a novelistic account of satanism, become concerned about the state of his soul in his later years. He considered looking for a suitable confessor to whom he could unburden his conscience. Here is how he phrased it in a letter to a friend:

But what phenic acids, what copper solutions could cleanse the great sewage tank into which my carnal iniquities are still pouring? It would need casks of carbolic, barrels of disinfectant – and then what Milleriot could handle a pump powerful enough to draw the residual waters from the old sewers? The breed of divine pumpmen who rejoiced in such labors is extinct. And so there seems no reason, brother, why things should not go on as before. Though it’s true that when they are as bad as this..!

Truly, The Drainage is the central metaphor of civilized man.

One Response to Drainage of the Psyche

  1. Cliff Burns says:

    Thanks for the great Huysmans’ quote–think I shall be adding that one to my book of commonplace. Interesting that J.K. was fretting over the state of his soul…that quote from his personal letters could have been uttered by a number of his celebrated fictional creations. Good post, thanks…

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