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Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans (1884)

  1. 60
    The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (roby72, Zeeko, JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Wie in Wikipedia zu 'Gegen den Strich' beschrieben: "Ein französischer Roman, der den Protagonisten in Oscar Wildes Roman Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray zu dekadenten Ausschweifungen inspiriert, wird häufig als Anspielung auf À rebours gedeutet. Wilde war - wie auch Stéphane Mallarmé - ein Bewunderer des Romans."… (more)
  2. 20
    Bruges-la-Morte by Georges Rodenbach (defaults)
  3. 00
    Submission by Michel Houellebecq (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: In "Unterwerfung" geht es um einen Professor der Literaturwissenschaften mit Schwerpunkt "Huysman". Entsprechend wird auch viel über Huysman gesprochen.
  4. 00
    Festins secrets by Pierre Jourde (Eustrabirbeonne)
  5. 00
    Reading Writing by Julien Gracq (Eustrabirbeonne)
  6. 00
    With the Flow by Joris-Karl Huysmans (arztriper)
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» See also 127 mentions

English (40)  Italian (3)  French (1)  Finnish (1)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (1)  English (1)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (50)
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
Like Don Quixote this book possesses some magnificent chapters, and some that you just have to grimace through. There'll never be a better chapter than when Des Esseintes decides to journey to London, but doesn't actually make it. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Jul 3, 2016 |
Absurdity and lots of lists abound! Review to come on blog soon. ( )
  KatrinkaV | May 24, 2016 |
This is the book from which "The Portrait of Dorian Gray" is based. Fascinating story of this type of surreal genre. ( )
  padmajoy | Sep 8, 2014 |
Against Nature (A rebours in the French original, also sometimes translated as Against the Grain) concerns itself with a degenerate French aristocrat, Jean des Esseintes, the last of his line, who has sunk so deep into the mire of degradation and decadence that he is bored and disgusted with his life, to the extent that he sells the family chateau in order to create a stream of income and retreats to the suburbs, renouncing the debased life he has lived and all acquaintances, becoming in almost every way a luxuriating hermit, nevertheless taking care to employ servants who can shield him as inconspicuously as possible from the quotidian necessities of living. Des Esseintes' debauchery has left him debilitated and has turned him into a narcissistic and neurotic, if highly intelligent, hypochondriac who seems to enjoy ill health. Where his physical ailments end and his neuroses begin is unclear.

He decorates his house according to his own unique aesthetic and surrounds himself with books and art which reflect that artistic sense which is revealed as the book progresses.

A rebours is "against nature" in the sense that des Esseintes has concluded that man has outdone nature at her own game, so he contrives to surround himself with artifice. It is also "against the grain" in the sense that almost everything des Esseintes does and nearly all the opinions he expresses are the antithesis of popular taste. The very form the book takes is in counterpoint to the Naturalism that dominated contemporary French literature. At the time the book was published in 1884, it created a tremendous stir among the "Naturalists," Émile Zola in particular, as they believed Huysmans had struck the death knell of that brand of realism.

However, A rebours is a one-of-a kind work, one upon which a school of literature could not realistically be fashioned. While it is a breathtaking read, one cannot seriously imagine wanting to read another like it. It is challenge enough to get through the original, not because it isn't entertaining, but the level of erudition, the vast vocabulary, the plethora of obscure literary references going back to Classical Latin, the catalogues of paintings, the lists of flora, of perfumes, of gemstones, not to mention the never-ending description, all go on and on leaving the reader gasping for a breath of fresh air. Consequently, it is not an easy book to read in either English or the French original. Copious notes and a good introduction are the order of the day. Thankfully, the Oxford World Classics edition provides both.

Despite its being one of a kind, A rebours heralds the birth of the modern and post-modern novel. It is without a plot and treats of but one character, but the reader has the sense that a story is being told, although the story merely follows the timeline of des Esseintes' life. Some chapters cause one to ask: "Is this a novel or a scholarly treatise?" Others have an episodic quality. Regardless, the novel elevates description to new heights, as it is devoid of dialogue.

As a literary artifact of the late nineteenth century, A rebours is tremendously interesting. There is much to be learned here, and readers interested in the history and development of literary types will probably find it fascinating. However, I do not think it will appeal to everyone. Just the same, I am very glad I read it. ( )
6 vote Poquette | Jun 26, 2014 |
But I just don't enjoy the pleasures other people enjoy!

With this exclamation, Jean des Esseintes, the sole character in Huysmans' Against Nature, sums up the central theme of the novel.

Against Nature is an atypical novel: there is only one character - the decadent and ailing aristocrat des Esseintes - and there is no traditional plot to speak of, rather the novel catalogues and discusses the varied tastes des Esseintes has in literature, art, music, perfume, and flowers to name a few. Des Esseintes prides himself on having tastes far removed from the common, vulgar crowd of everyday society, from whom he has secluded himself in an eremitic existence in a country manor to be left in solitude with his possessions and sensual experiences. Veering between extreme and nervous excitability to debilitating ennui, des Esseintes represents the ultimate in decadent fin de siècle aesthetics.

Huysmans' prose is replete with obscure and idiosyncratic vocabulary and detailed narrative descriptions, all of which have ably and faithfully translated into English by Robert Baldick. Huysmans also displays an encyclopaedic knowledge of many subjects including perfumery, classical Latin authors, and tropical plants.

Against Nature indeed goes against the grain of traditional plot-driven novels, focusing rather on the psychology and tastes of the central character, decadently languishing in luxurious tastes and emotions. It is a deeply interesting psychological study of one man and his retreat from society, and the effect it has on him. It remains a classic Symbolist and Decadent piece of literature, and as the author himself said, it has exploded onto the literary scene "like a meteorite" and remains powerful even now.

( )
  xuebi | May 30, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (54 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Huysmans, Joris-Karlprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ascari, FabrizioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baldick, Robert.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bo, CarloForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dèttore, UgoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ellis, HavelockIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nylén, AnttiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Redon, OdilonIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sbarbaro, CamilloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zaidenberg, ArthurIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Over two months elapsed before Des Esseintes could immerse himself in the peaceful silence of his house at Fontenay, for purchases of all sorts still kept him perambulating the streets and ransacking the shops from one end of Paris to the other.
If, in a cosy fantasy of cultural influence, one were to present one's young niece or nephew with their first nineteenth-century novel, only the most wicked amongst us would choose Joris-Karl Huysmans's Against Nature (in the original French, A rebours). (Introduction)
Judging by the few portraits that have been preserved in the Chateau de Lourps, the line of the Floressas des Esseintes consisted, in bygone days, of muscular warriors and grim-looking mercenaries. (Prologue)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140447636, Paperback)

A wildly original fin-de-siècle novel, Against Nature follows its sole character, Des Esseintes, a decadent, ailing aristocrat who retreats to an isolated villa where he indulges his taste for luxury and excess. Veering between nervous excitability and debilitating ennui, he gluts his aesthetic appetites with classical literature and art, exotic jewels (with which he fatally encrusts the shell of his tortoise), rich perfumes, and a kaleidoscope of sensual experiences. The original handbook of decadence, Against Nature exploded “like a grenade” (in the words of its author) and has enjoyed a cult readership from its publication to the present day.

Features a new Introduction, chronology, and notes and reproduces Huysmans's 1903 preface
Includes a section of contemporary reviews and responses from writers including Mallarmé, Zola, and Wilde

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:36 -0400)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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