Against Nature ( Rebours)

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Dedalus, 2008 - Fiction - 315 pages
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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.

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'If rape and arson, poison and the knife have not yet stitched their ludicrous designs onto the banal buckram of our fates it is because our souls lack enterprise! But here among the scorpions and the ... Read full review


Note on the translation
Preface written twenty years afterwards

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About the author (2008)

J.K.Huysmans began writing as a naturalist in the style of Zola. .He changed from being an obscure author and art critic to one of the most famous authors of his day with the publication of A Rebours (Against Nature) in 1884. His novel about Satanism, La-Bas (1891)is the cult novel of the nineteenth century.

Brendan King is a freelance writer, reviewer and translator with a special interest in late nineteenth-century French fiction. His Ph.D. is on the life and work of J.-K.Huysmans. He has translated La-Bas, Parisian Sketches, Marthe, Against Nature, Stranded, The Cathedral and The Vatard Sisters by J.-K. Huysmans for Dedalus. He has also edited The Life of J.-K.Huysmans by Robert Baldick for Dedalus.

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