The Decadent Reader: Fiction, Fantasy, and Perversion from Fin-de-siècle France

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Asti Hustvedt
Zone Books, 1998 - Literary Collections - 1088 pages
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In France at the end of the nineteenth century, progress and material prosperity coincided with widespread alarm about disease and decay. The obsessions of our own culture as the twentieth century came to a close resonate strikingly with those of the last fin-de-siecle: crime, pollution, sexually transmitted diseases, gender confusion, moral depravity, alcoholism, and tobacco and drug use were topics of popular discussion then as now.

The Decadent Reader is a collection of novels and stories from fin-de-siecle France that celebrate decline, aestheticize decay, and take pleasure in perversity. By embracing the marginal, the unhealthy, and the deviant, the decadent writers attacked bourgeois life, which they perceived to be the chief enemy of art. Barbey d'Aurevilly, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Jean Lorrain, Guy de Maupassant, Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Catulle Mendes, Rachilde, Jean Moreas, Octave Mirbeau, Josephin Peladan, and Remy de Gourmont looted the riches of their culture for their own purposes. In an age of medicine, they borrowed its occult mysteries rather than its positivism. From its social Darwinism, they found their monsters: sadists, murderers, transvestites, fetishists, prostitutes, nymphomaniacs, and hysterics. And they reveled in them, completely upending the conventions of romance and sentimentality. The Decadent Reader, which includes critical essays on all of the authors, many novels and stories that have never before appeared in English, and familiar works set in a new context, offers a compelling portrait of fin-de-siecle France.

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The decadent reader: fiction, fantasy, and perversion from fin-de-siècle France

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The end of the 20th century has renewed an interest in the end of the 19th century, in particular the aesthetes and fin-de-siecle writers of France who influenced writers like Oscar Wilde and pointed ... Read full review

Contents

THE CRIMSON CURTAIN
43
THE GREATEST LOVE OF DON JUAN
78
HAPPINESS IN CRIME
95
Copyright

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About the author (1998)

Asti Hustvedt received her PhD in French literature from New York University. She has worked as an editor and translator, and lives in New York City with her family.

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