Friends And The Devil

Work progressed at a frenetic pace. Hacks-Bataille, after liberal doses of absinthe, described his inventions to Taxil, who wrote them up and embellished them; or Bataille busied himself over details concerning medical science, the art of poisoning and the description of cities and esoteric rites that he had actually seen. Meanwhile, Taxil embroidered upon Diana’s latest delusions.

Bataille, for example, began by depicting the rock of Gibraltar as a spongy mass crisscrossed with passageways, cavities and subterranean caves where some of the most blasphemous sects celebrated their rituals, describing the Masonic antics of the Indian sects and the apparitions of Asmodeus, while Taxil gave a profile of Sophia Sapho. Having read the Dictionnaire infernal by Collin de Plancy, he suggested that Sophia had revealed that there were 6,666 legions, each legion consisting of 6,666 demons. Although he was drunk by this time, Bataille managed to work out that the total number of devils and she-devils was 44,435,556. We checked his calculation, admitting with surprise that he was right, and he banged his fist on the table and shouted, “You see then, I’m not drunk!” He was so pleased with himself that he slid under the table.

—Umberto Eco, The Prague Cemetery

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When I Worked

May 2012
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