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Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans ,. Robert Baldick Translator. Patrick McGuinness Annotations. 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 Huysmans and has enjoyed a cult readership from its publication to the present day. Get A Copy. Paperback , Penguin Classics , pages. Published May 1st by Penguin first published More Details Original Title.
Jean Des Esseintes. Fontenay-aux-Roses France. Scott Moncrieff Prize for Margaret Mauldon Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
To ask other readers questions about Against Nature , please sign up. Could someonr please tell me the name of the painting on this covet, and, if possible, by whom it was painted?
Kind regards. See all 3 questions about Against Nature…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of Against Nature. May 22, Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing Shelves: libertines-dandies-decadents , 19th-c-french.
Did I really read this book forty years ago? Or did I just read the passages about the "perfume organ" and the jewel encrusted turtle and later assumed I had read the rest? If I did read it, I was completely wrong in my evaluation of this as a static, effete precursor to Dorian Gray , a work marooned in the vanished aesthetic of the late nineteenth century.
No, no. For starters, it is an accomplished work of realism that turns realism on its head Did I really read this book forty years ago? For starters, it is an accomplished work of realism that turns realism on its head. Huysman--just as effectively as the Goncourts or Dreiser--knows how to accumulate a wealth of detail to convey the physical reality of the situation he wishes to describe.
Just because he's describing the fantastically decorated and furnished apartment of an extremely wealthy aesthete concerned with pleasing no one but himself is irrelevant to this particular aspect of the "novel.
It also reminds me of that great short story of Flaubert's, "The Temptation of St. Anthony," for Des Esseintes--the novel's protagonist--is a saint of the senses, and on his path to enlightenment he encounters demons, delusions and disease. Indeed, the spiritual aspect of this book is so strong--particular in our hero's love for the fullness of the Catholic tradition--that I'm almost surprised at the reaction to the book in conservative circles. In hindsight, it is easy to see that Huysmans is on the road back to Rome.
And yet. Huymans views his protagonist with devastating irony, particularly in the frequent juxtaposition of grandiose schemes with physical illnesses and practical and psychological failings.
In addition, in more than a few passages--Des Esseintes scheme for making a murderer out of a street boy is the most remarkable example--Huysmans obliquely reveals a consciousness of the plight of the poor that suggests a world of Christian compassion and duty beyond all this preciousness.
This is a deep, rich work, and--although it is a classic representative of the fin de siecle--it transcends its age and has the ability to speak to ours as well. View all 21 comments. We are also provided exquisite detail of, among other luxurious, lavish, plush, extravagant belongings, his vast library of rare books, ancient and modern, and his marvelous collection of paintings and prints.
This cerebral clinic where, vivisecting in a stifling atmosphere, that spiritual surgeon became, as soon as his attention flagged, a prey to an imagination which evoked, like delicious miasmas, somnambulistic and angelic apparitions, was to Des Esseintes a source of unwearying conjecture.
He considered the crabbed expressions of some, insulting. He felt a desire to slap the fellow who walked, eyes closed, with such a learned air; the one who minced along, smiling at his image in the window panes; and the one who seemed stimulated by a whole world of thought while devouring with contracted brow, the tedious contents of a newspaper.
It was coated with a layer of bronze green on which glanced silver reflections. It was a masterpiece of articiality. It could be called a piece of stove pipe, cut by a chimney-maker into the form of a pike head.
This is the arched, over-the-top language a reader will find on every page. Either this novel is to your taste or it is not. Perhaps it is reading about a lover of the senses and literature and all things aesthetic who has the money and resources to create his very own virtual reality.
For me, I love it, finding the lavish, ornate language and many of the descriptions laugh-aloud hilarious. Although my own life and level of wealth differs greatly from Des Esseintes, I can see part of myself in his immersion in the worlds of art and literature and his absolute revulsion for much of the general run of society and its coarse values as I write this I have a mental picture of a smirking potbellied husband and his obese wife in their white pants and gold chains waddling into a Las Vegas casino.
So, in a way, I am laughing at myself as much as I am laughing at Des Esseintes. One further note: I chose this translation by John Howard since the audiobook is available through LibriVox available on-line, free-of-charge. View all 48 comments. Jul 14, J. Keely rated it it was ok Shelves: realism , french , reviewed , novel. The hipsters are right: society is trying to destroy you--not your body, or your mind, but you , the part which makes an individual.
That's what society is: the aspect of human life that is not the self, but is communal, the part that causes humanity to behave like a colony of ants. As brilliant Nietzsche scholar Rick Roderick pointed out , advertisement is the opposite of psychotherapy. The idea of therapy is to take things that are hidden within your brain--biases, prejudices, hangups, fears, hab The hipsters are right: society is trying to destroy you--not your body, or your mind, but you , the part which makes an individual.
The idea of therapy is to take things that are hidden within your brain--biases, prejudices, hangups, fears, habits--and to bring them to the surface, to make you aware of them so they can be processed, or even gotten rid of.
We conflate Coca Cola with comfort and familiarity, the Nike swoosh with athletic ability, Mickey Mouse with childhood; our idea of how relationships work is based on yoghurt commercials. Now, think of how else that space could have been used: what would you rather know instead of those jingles? Greek philosophy? How to rebuild a carburetor? We shame other people, we guilt them, we tease them, we make suggestions, we tell them little infectious phrases that are supposed to be helpful.
Then there are systems within that society--churches, military complexes, corporations, stores, entertainment industries, political groups--all of which are trying to sway you, trying to sway society, promoting their own best interests as if there were nothing artificial about it. I mean, how strong must that impulse be to reject all these things that people tell us we are supposed to be?
We are reminded of this shit every day by books, movies, adverts, and assholes on the bus. Sure, we internalize it to some degree, but for a lot of us, we retain an iconoclastic streak that stops us from being taken over completely. As Roderick describes it, the mind is constantly under siege: we put up walls to keep out the overwhelming force of culture.
Sure, some gets in, but our defenses keep a lot out. Ideas can be infectious, they can be viral, they prey on our hopes and fears, our prejudices and insecurities, but over time, we build up better and better defenses to recognize and root out these ideas. They have constructed a sense of identity for themselves--what makes them them --and when they see someone else doing the same thing, it threatens their sense of identity.
They are a subculture, but one that still feeds into and supports the main culture. They are rampant consumers, early-adopters who are constantly looking for new ways to spend their money because as soon as other people start liking what they like, they have to dump it all and buy new stuff. Every subculture becomes co-opted and sold back to the people for a profit, and the way corporations have maneuvered hipsters is brilliant. If they stop consuming fashion, products, information, politics, music, and craft materials, they lose their identity.
They are conformists. Predictable ants are useful ants. But of course, the real iconoclast doesn't identify themselves with certain bands or aesthetics, with clothes or objects.
Against The Grain
Des Esseintes is a decadent, ailing aristocrat who retreats to an isolated villa where her 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. Against Nature , in the words of the author, exploded 'like a meteorite' and has enjoyed a cult following to this day. Huysmans died in
Closely arrayed, side by side, in the old frames which their broad shoulders filled, they startled one with the fixed gaze of their eyes, their fierce moustaches and the chests whose deep curves filled the enormous shells of their cuirasses. These were the ancestors. There were no portraits of their descendants and a wide breach existed in the series of the faces of this race. Only one painting served as a link to connect the past and present—a crafty, mysterious head with haggard and gaunt features, cheekbones punctuated with a comma of paint, the hair overspread with pearls, a painted neck rising stiffly from the fluted ruff.