Homeless Narrative in Jean Lorrain’s Monsieur de Phocas

Pedigreed by hyperesthesia, purified by an anorexia of the real, the Decadents strove to perfect an art positioned on the threshold of death where vitality’s flame shone brightest before guttering and going out. Heralded by Denis Neveu as “le roman bible de la Dėcadence,” Jean Lorrain’s Monsieur de Phocas (1901) shows how the repetition compulsion takes life with its disharmony and suffering, and stylizes it in works that are dead and thus immune to pain. Lorrain’s hero, le duc de Fréneuse, encounters life’s horrors as the undead who proliferate as the wax dolls, mannequins, and eyeless statues which remain after living being are replaced with their simulacra. Expressing a desire for escape from the compulsion to create, Monsieur de Phocas is a text in search of the one who can absolve it of the need to write in the first place.

Robert Ziegler
Montana Technological University