Against Nature is the perfect illustration of Oscar Wilde's famous paradox that life imitates art, and not the other way around. First published in Paris in 1884 when the Naturalistic school - of which Huysmans himself was a major figure - was at its height, it delivered a body-blow to Zola's brand of literary realism, and almost single-handedly redefined the literary and artistic canon of the nineteenth century in the process. To a rising generation of readers, writers and artists across Europe, Huysmans' novel was the instruction manual of a movement that was to become emblematic of fin-de-siecle France: Decadence. The novel tells the story of its decadent aristocratic anti-hero, Jean Floressas des Esseintes, who, bored by the aesthetic and carnal pleasures the Parisian beau monde has to offer, decides to sell up and move to an isolated house in the suburbs. There he constructs a world of artifice that exactly minors his super-subtle, perverse and painfully neurotic sensibility. The result is one of the most bizarre, intriguing and influential books of the period. Whether read as an existential fable, psychological analysis, style manual, cultural critique or social satire, the novel remains as audacious and original today as when first published.
Huysmans tells the story of a jaded count who tries to revive his senses by means of increasingly more extravagant intoxications. When A REBOURS appeared in 1884, Huysmans wrote, it "fell like an aerolite into the literary fairground, to be received with mingled amazement and indignation; the Press completely lost their heads; such an outburst of incoherent ravings had never been known before. After first calling me a misanthropic impressionist and describing Des Esseintes as a maniac and lunatic...." The book, however, has endured, and remains a classic work of fin-de-siècle decadence.
- Fiction + Literature Themes, Fiction + Literature Genres
- Classics, Types of Characters, Human Qualities + Behavior
- October 30, 2008
- October 30, 2008
- Joris Karl Huysmans, J.K. Huysmans