The Devils of Loudun
  • Pages: 400
  • ISBN: 9780099477761
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Vintage

The Devils of Loudun

Aldous Huxley

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Description

The Devils of Loudun is Aldous Huxley’s vivid account of a bizarre tale of religious and sexual obsession in the seventeenth century.

In 1634 Urbain Grandier, a handsome and dissolute priest of the parish of Loudun, was tried, tortured and burnt at the stake. He had been found guilty of conspiring with the devil to seduce an entire convent of nuns in what was the most sensational case of mass possession and sexual hysteria in history.

Grandier maintained his innocence to the end and four years after his death the nuns were still being subjected to exorcisms to free them from their demonic bondage.

Reviewed by Kate Tyte in Slightly Foxed Issue 55.

Trouble at the Convent

KATE TYTE

‘That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach,’ wrote Aldous Huxley in 1959. This aphorism feels especially relevant now, when history seems to be repeating itself with a vengeance. In the 1990s, in The End of History, Francis Fukuyama suggested that the ideological battlegrounds of the twentieth century were a thing of the past. History has quickly proved him wrong. We’ve come full circle, with battles raging between left and right, the religious and the
secular, each deaf to the other.

So Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun (1952) – a book that could easily be subtitled ‘politically motivated witch-hunts and how to avoid them’ – feels horribly relevant. The Devils is about the supposed possession of a convent of nuns, thanks to the alleged witchcraft of a Catholic priest with a sex life that reads like Les Liaisons Dangereuses. It includes exorcisms, torture and Byzantine political manoeuvrings by an untouchable elite . . .

‘Huxley has reconstructed with skill, learning and horror one of the most appalling incidents in the history of witch-hunting during its seventeenth-century heyday. ’ TLS



Related articles Authors & Contributors

Trouble at the Convent

Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun (1952) – a book that could easily be subtitled ‘politically motivated witch-hunts and how to avoid them’ – feels horribly relevant. The Devils is about the...

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