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Controcorrente by Joris-Karl Huysmans
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Controcorrente (original 1884; edition 2009)

by Joris-Karl Huysmans, A (A)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,189472,962 (3.85)117
Member:Fahrbuecherei
Title:Controcorrente
Authors:Joris-Karl Huysmans
Other authors:A (A)
Info:Milano, Mondadori, 2009
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Dekadenz, Klassiker

Work details

Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans (1884)

  1. 50
    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
    Zeno's Conscience by Italo Svevo (William-90)
    William-90: A similar hymn to procrastination.
  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 117 mentions

English (39)  Italian (2)  Finnish (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  Portuguese (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (47)
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
This is the book from which "The Portrait of Dorian Gray" is based. Fascinating story of this type of surreal genre. ( )
  padmacatell | 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. ( )
4 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 |
This "novel" is actually a series of prose poems describing in minute detail the life of the mind of a fin-de-siecle decadent as viewed through the prism of his opinions about such matters as Latin literature and precious stones. As such, it hearkens back to the great decadent poets of the France of a generation earlier, and, to a lesser degree, the futurists who emerged a decade or so later. It is very difficult and unrewarding reading, despite the occasional impressive use of imagery, and few will care to plow through a book which requires four or five trips to the dictionary to complete reading one page. ( )
  Big_Bang_Gorilla | Nov 8, 2013 |
The novel has a promising beginning - a couple of short chapters summarizing the narrators societal debaucheries and excesses that have lead him to despair and the decision to abandon society. He then goes on to ponder the superiority of the artificial over Nature, culminating in a gorgeous metaphor:"Is there a woman, whose form is more dazzling, more splendid than the two locomotives that pass over the Northern Railroad lines? One the Crampton, is an adorable, shrill-voiced blonde, a trim gilded blond, with a large, fragile body imprisoned in a glittering corset of copper, and having the long sinewy lines of a cat. Her extraordinary grace is frightening, as, with the sweat of her hot sides rising upwards and her steel muscles stiffening, she puts in motion the immense rose-window of her fine wheels and darts forward....There was also a description of the "new generation" that made me laugh, they "seemed to find it necessary to talk and laugh boisterously in restaurants and cafes. They jostled you on sidewalks without begging pardon. They pushed the wheels of perambulators against your legs without even apologizing." It sound just like my reaction to present day Park Slope, Brooklyn!

However, the novel is completely plot-less. Each subsequent chapter wallows in the description of a particular sensation - a chapter on color as the narrator decorates his new abode. A chapter on taste as he imaginatively mixes cocktails (each liquor is defined as a musical instrument and he orchestrates their flavors). There is a chapter on scent as the narrator mixes perfumes, a chapter on his youthful religious studies, a chapter on his current library. And on and on and on.

It is extremely well-written, but the aspects that interested me the most were in the early chapters. And while I enjoy creative metaphors and beautiful descriptions, after a while it gets tedious. ( )
  ELiz_M | Oct 21, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (55 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Huysmans, Joris-Karlprimary authorall 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
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.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:03 -0400)

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