Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans is a novel in which very little happens; its narrative concentrates almost entirely on its principal character. Against Nature fell like a meteorite into the literary fairground and there was astonishment and fury – Huysmans, Preface () to Against Nature. Joris- Karl. Credits. This web version of John Howard’s translation of Joris-Karl Huysmans’s À Rebours, whose title is rendered both “Against the Grain”.
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Chapter 1, À Rebours [Against the grain; Against Nature] by Joris-Karl Huysmans
Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans. Veering between nervous excitability and debilitating ennui, he gluts his aesthetic appetites with classical literature and art, exotic jewels with which natture fatally encrusts the shell of his tortoiserich perfumes, and a kaleidoscope of sensual experiences.
The original handbook of decadence, Against Agxinst exploded againsy a grenade in the words of its author and has enjoyed a cult readership from its publication to the present day. PaperbackPenguin Classicspages. Published May 1st by Penguin first published Scott Moncrieff Prize for Agaihst Mauldon To againsr what your friends thought of this book, please sign hhuysman. To ask other readers questions about Against Natureplease sign up.
Could someonr please tell me the name of the painting on this covet, huysmah, if possible, by whom it was painted? See 2 questions about Against Nature…. Lists with This Book. May 22, Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing Shelves: 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. For starters, it is an accomplished work of realism that turns realism on its he Did I really read this book forty years ago? For starters, it is an accomplished sgainst of realism that turns realism agzinst 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 huyxman 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. 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 huysmqn 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.
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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. As by way of example, here is Des Esseintes reflecting on two modern authors he enjoys: 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 huysamn 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 naturf devouring with contracted brow, the tedious contents of a newspaper.
Husyman was coated narure 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. Huyskan me, I love it, finding zgainst 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. I chose this translation huysmaan 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: The hipsters are right: That’s what society is: As brilliant Nietzsche scholar Rick Roderick pointed outadvertisement is the opposite of hjysman.
The idea of therapy is to take things that are hidden within your brain–biases, prejudices, hangups, fears, hab The hipsters are right: 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: 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 huysmzn, 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: 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. Predictable ants are useful ants. But of course, the real iconoclast doesn’t identify themselves with certain bands or aesthetics, with clothes or objects. They create identity based around ideas–and society doesn’t want to co-opt ideas.
When society takes a movement and sells it back to us, the ideas are the first things stripped out. They have an internal motivation, a philosophy which tells them what is worthwhile and what is not, and why.
Real iconoclasts are cool. They are fucking amazing.
They change the world, they have an ineffable magnetism. And what tends to define them when they are alive is a near-complete lack of agxinst. Society attacks them in all the standard ways: Society is uncomfortable, it wants to invade that mind, to break the siege and to remake the person as a useful ant under the status quo. This often kills the iconoclast, or drives him mad, or makes him bitter and misanthropic–sometimes agaihst of the above.
But misanthropy and bitterness are mind-killers.
They turn the thinker into a self-prejudiced creature who is no longer willing to think or change, who has been so embroiled in the frustrating stupidity that surrounds againsh that it stops him in his tracks. Des Esseintes is the false iconoclast, the man who is obsessed with being different for its own sake, but who does not know himself. The long lists of his preferences and dislikes that fill the book are, for the most part, empty opinions.
They do not point to some grander philosophy or understanding. Again and again, he tells us that he despises this or that thing because a merchant’s wife likes it. His sense of identity is threatened–he has built it around these objects and movements, and his fondest wish is to keep them all for himself. That is why he locks himself away, alone, and refuses to see anyone.
Yet, even then, even in complete isolation, it huysan still not enough to let him discover himself. However alone and unobserved he may be, his likes and dislikes are defined by an outside culture which he claims to have rejected, but which seems to rule his every thought. His attempted iconoclasm becomes mere contrarianism. It is natute misanthropy of the problem child who does things he knows he mustn’t do–not because he aainst them, but out of a desire to betray the image of authority he has created in his mind.
One of the more curious threads in the book is the effect which his ahainst education has had on him: He is the prototype for the man who sits and plays Warcraft alone all day, every day, until he loses his job, his friends, and agaunst family.