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The Devil in Love (novel)

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Wikipedia article


'The Devil in Love' (, 1772) is an occult romance by Jacques Cazotte which tells of a demon, or devil, who falls in love with a young Spanish nobleman named Don Alvaro, an amateur human dabbler, and attempts, in the guise of a young woman, to win his affections.

French critic P.G. Castex has described 'The Devil In Love' as "the very initiator of the modern fantasy story".Castex quoted in Franz Rottensteiner, 'The Fantasy Book:an illustrated history from Dracula to Tolkien'.

Collier Books, 1978, (p. 137).

Canadian critic Carlo Testa has described 'The Devil In Love' (in review of Stephen Sartarelli's 1993 translation) as a "terminus a quo" in the history of the demonic subgenre".

The 'Le Diable amoureux' started a literary style known as 'fantastique', where surreal events intrude on reality and the reader is left guessing whether the events actually occurred or were merely the product of the character's imagination.


Don Alvaro, a young but wise man, invokes Satan. Upon seeing the young Alvaro, Satan falls in love with him and assumes the appearance of a young woman, Biondetta. He follows Alvaro as his page. In the journey that unfolds, Satan, disguised as a woman, tries to seduce Alvaro who rejects his advances lest he lose his virginity. He is unwilling to compromise his honor by sleeping with a woman before they are married and he will first need his mothers approval of the union.

Over the course of their journey, Biondetta (the devil's name as a woman) and Alvaro will grow closer and closer. When the protagonist's friend Olympia discovers that Alvaro's "male" servant is in fact of the female sex, she confronts Alvaro, who denies the accusations and sides with his servant. Thereafter, Biondetta abandons her life as servant and proceeds to get closer and closer to Alvaro, surviving an assassination attempt by Olympia. The devil tries to have sex with Alvaro, before their wedding or Alvaro's mother's blessings, but is rebuffed by Alvaro. Biondetta then takes leave, never to be found again. Alvaro returns to his family's court, where his mother consoles him that it was all a bad dream and that if he listen to his mother, he will never fall victim to the devil.


The novel would prove influential on Jacques Lacan who encountered it as part of a symposium on Jacques Cazotte. Lacan would adapt one scene from the story, in which the devil first appears and asks Alvaro "'che vuoi'?" ('What do you want?' in Italian). Lacan incorporated this into the graph of desire, arguing that one must ask oneself over and over again what the big Other "truly wants".


*1840: 'Le Diable amoureux', France, a ballet by Napolon Henri Reber, Franois Benoist and balletmaster Joseph Mazilier. It was later restaged in a revised version under the title 'Satanella' by the Marius Petipa with his father Jean Petipa for the Imperial Ballet with the original music re-orchestrated by Konstantin Liadov. This revival premiered on February 10, 1848 at the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia.

*1858: "Satanella, or The Power of Love", Romantic Opera in Four Acts by Michael William Balfe.

*1929: 'Le Diable amoureux', France, a comic opera by Alexis Roland-Manuel

*1975–1989: 'Devil in Love (Vlyublyonny dyavol)', Russia, an opera in two acts by Alexander Vustin, libretto by Vladimir Khachaturov

*1993: 'The Club Dumas' ('El Club Dumas'), Spain, a novel by Arturo Prez-Reverte inspired by and that refers to the novel.

*1999: 'The Ninth Gate', United States, a film directed by Roman Polanski, starring Johnny Depp, is a partial adaptation of 'The Club Dumas'.

*2010: "The Devil in Love - A Soundtrack to the 1772 Occult Novel", a double-CD compilation with contributions from The Tiger Lillies, Jarboe, John Zorn, Art Zoyd and other artists; issued with a Swedish translation of the novel published by Malrt Frlag.


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