(Un)Veiling the Self and the Story: Dandyism, Desire, and Narrative Duplicity in Barbey d'Aurevilly's Les Diaboliques

In his short story collection Les Diaboliques (1874), Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly made dandyism an important narrative principle. He transferred the subtle and playful revolt that George Brummell staged in high society England to the literary realm. Like the British dandy, Barbey’s storytellers cultivate an aesthetic of dissimulation and duplicity. They weave gaps into their narratives and disguise their own role and perspective as narrators. They subvert literary conventions and narrate under false pretenses. Barbey ties the seductive quality of narrative and the power of fiction to such deviations from tradition and norm. His storytellers do not provide what their listeners expect or ask for. Instead – like Brummell – they constantly tease, surprise, and thus seduce. Their narratives can provide great textual pleasures and yield great power because – like the transparent gauzes that veil and unveil the bodies of Barbey’s heroines – they do not gradually reveal their secrets but instead reveal and conceal simultaneously, duplicitously. (SR)

Rossbach, Susanne.
Volume 2009 Spring-Summer; 37(3-4): 276-90.