The story of Là-Bas concerns the novelist Durtal who is disgusted by the emptiness and vulgarity of the modern world. He attempts to escape it by studying medieval topics and plans to write a biography about the 15th century murderer and devil-worshipper Gilles de Rais. Through his contacts in Paris with Dr. Johannes, (modelled after Joseph-Antoine Boullan, a French Roman Catholic priest accused of Satanism) Durtal discovers that Satanism is not a thing of the past, but alive and kicking in turn of the century France. He embarks on an investigation of the occult underworld with the help of his lover Madame Chantelouve. The novel climaxes with a description of a black mass.
Charles Marie Georges Huysmans (February 5, 1848 – May 12, 1907) was a French novelist who published his works as Joris-Karl Huysmans. Là-Bas (English: Down There or The Damned) was first published in 1891. Huysmans is now recognized as one of the most challenging and pioneering figures in European literature. Short after its publication, the sale of the book was banned on French railway stations.