Against Nature (A Rebours)

Against Nature (A Rebours)


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Resisting the traditional model of nineteenth-century fiction, Joris-Karl Huysman produced in 1884 a novel unlike any other of his time. Against Nature is the story of Des Esseintes, an aesthete who attempts to escape Paris and, along with it, the vulgarity of modern Life. As Des Esseintes hides away in his museum of high taste, Huysman offers the reader a treasury of cultural delights and anticipates many aspects of twentieth century modernism. Supplemented by notes and a critical introduction, this new translation is sure to engage today's reader.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781731705853
Publisher: Simon & Brown
Publication date: 11/15/2018
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.41(d)

About the Author

Born in Paris in 1848 and acknowledged as a principal architect of the fin-de-siècle imagination, Joris-Karl Huysmans was a career civil servant who wrote ten novels, most notably A Rebours (1884) and Là-Bas (1891). Huysmans died in 1907.

Robert Baldick (d.1972) translated widely from the French and wrote a biography of Huysmans.

Patrick McGuinness is a Fellow and Tutor in French at St Anne's College, Oxford, and editor of Symbolism, Decadence and the Fin de Siecle (Exeter UP, 2000).

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Against Nature 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Timhrk More than 1 year ago
Against Nature by J.K Huymsan is not just the first existential novel, it remains one of the most timeless and relevant works of French literature. The main character decides to live a life of solitude and creates a universe within his self, trying to attain the highest level of aesthetic experience. Fascinating and funny too-using dozens of perfumes, he attempts a symphony based on the sense of smell-the aesthete has to deal with an age old contradiction-society will make him insane, but solitude will destroy his health. The Baldick translation some critics, such as Camille Paglia, regard it as superior to the original French. Reads like a contemporary novel. Please visit:
pmtracy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was lead to À rebours (the English translation I read was titled Against the Grain as opposed to the more traditional Against Nature) through my recent reading of Wilde¿s The Picture of Dorian Gray. À rebours is purportedly the ¿Yellow Book¿ that enthralled Dorian.The focus of the story is Jean Des Esseintes, a nervous and sickly man in his 30s. He held humanity in contempt, referring to people as scoundrels and imbeciles, so he sought refuge and isolation on top of Fontenay-aux-Roses. During his isolation, he rambles on with is opinions about art, literature, food, music and just about anything related to the senses.The text is incredibly sensual and layered with descriptions typical of decadent writings. As an example, he described his bedroom¿s décor with the phrase ¿women loved to immerse their nudity in this bath of warm carnation [light], made fragrant with the odor of mint emanating from the exotic wood of the furniture.¿ The book contains luxurious details to the point where you can feel brocade, smell incense and see light reflected from polished and jeweled surfaces. Another example in describing his library: ¿Between two gilded copper monstrances of Byzantine style, originally brought from old Abbaye-au-Bois de Bièvre, stood a marvelous church canon.¿The book presented frequent anti-naturalist themes and attitudes. (Hence the Against Nature title.) In one chapter, the author described Des Esseintes¿ ornate decoration of a tortoise¿s shell with gold guilt and jewels and minerals. The motif and materials used for the design are painstakingly described. The fact that this decoration resulted in the death of the animal was only conveyed in one short sentence at the end of the chapter. In another part of the book, Des Esseintes describes how nature¿s rendition of flowers is lacking so he recreates them using wire, paper and fabric to a more glorious effect. He then duplicates their fragrances through the art of perfumery. Again, the descriptions are provided in minutiae and the final product is believed to be far better than what can be found in nature. His attitude is best summed up in the line ¿There can be no doubt about it: this eternal, driveling, old woman is no longer admired by true artists, and the moment has come to replace her by artifice.¿The most difficult chapters were those dedicated to literature. One provides an in-depth comparison of classical Latin writings to which I¿ve had little to no exposure. Another provided reviews and critiques of French authors of the day (mid-1880). This chapter did lead me to read some works of Baudelaire with whom Des Esseintes had a strong obsession believing that ¿the prose poem represented the concrete juice of literature, the essential oil of art.¿There really is no plot to À rebours. Instead, it¿s merely a collection of observations presented with beautiful language. Through the story, Des Esseintes¿ health continues to decline. His doctor¿s advice is to ¿get a life¿ and the book ends abruptly with Jean¿s return to Paris.
Wubsy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked out this book in the bookstore because of it's intriguing cover. Something about the expression of the man's face seemed lost and almost crazed. The novel did not disappoint me, and in Des Esseintes, Huysman's created a character who remains agonizingly out of reach. The descriptions throughout are magnificent, (a sort of exciting Dickens), and I found the protagonist at all times lovable and nauseating. The novel is beautifully crafted, but simultaneously seems to be teetering on the edge of total collapse and disintegration. That it doesn't is all part of its peculiar charm.
TheBooknerd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Though dry and dragging, this is an interesting book to be at least familiar with. It is a quintessential depiction of the fin de siecle and the degenerate mode of literature.
TheCriticalTimes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In English the title was translated as either 'Against Nature' or 'Against the Grain', which to me are two very different titles. It occurred to me that this tension within the meaning of the title itself is a good indication of the contents of the novel. We are introduced to a French aristocrat by the name of Des Esseintes who is of feeble stamina and who might be called a dandy in British terms. We follow the young man as he slowly retreats out of everyday life into a decadent seclusion of his own design. At times opulent in its descriptions of Des Esseintes' mansion, at times excruciatingly detailed and accurate in Des Esseintes' analysis of his tastes, desires and repulsions, the novel lures the reader into an artificial world of what seems to be luxury. Page after page Des Esseintes delves deeper into his own mind. He collects rare specimens of everything and if there does not exist a rarity he believes he should have, he has it created from his own detailed drawings and directions. As a side note, most of the objects and interiors the young man envisions were based on actual examples of dandyish extravaganza.The reader is slowly included into the artificial world of Des Esseintes and slowly the alternative reality appears more and more sold. Instead the young man's health deteriorates and his mind attempts to grapple with his own choices. Inevitably he wavers between stepping back into Beau Monde or forever lock himself away into an imaginary world. He goes back and forth and makes several attempts to take either extreme leaps. In one famous scene Des Esseintes is well on his way to visit London when after thinking over the plan in his mind he decides that in his mind he has already read and imagined so much of Britain's capital that he can only be disappointed by traveling there. Instead he returns to his mansion. Ultimately his private physician offers him the choice: go back into the world and regain your physical health, or retreat into your own mind and suffer.The author, Joris-Karl Huysmans, wrote the novel in a time when literature's standard was realism devoid of symbolism or misplaced fantasy. Huysmans received both high acclaim from writers such as Oscar Wilde, but also derision from esteemed authors like Zola, who was Huysmans' mentor and inspiration. Perhaps this book can be seen as the ultimate anti-novel in the sense that it does not feature any trappings of a book designed to entertain. If you want to convey a point or principle then you either write it with great entertainment value but your meaningful message might not be remembered, or you write the work in a serious tone, in which case it will be remembered but not widely read. Huysmans took the extreme side of those polar opposites and goes beyond somber writing and confronts the reader head on by presenting the world of Des Esseintes from a solipsistic standpoint in which as a reader you have no other safety net than your own experiences and opinions. Instead of taking the Disney approach of embedding a clear takeaway moral message, the novel's aim is to have the reader make decisions on how to travel through life and in that sense it is the paragon of letting the reader take away whatever usefulness can be derived, even if this means rejecting the novel.
williamcostiganjr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A dandy retreats from society to ensconce himself in his lair of books, perfumes, flowers, art, etc. An amusing and entertaining read. You can skim any parts you find dull, but Huysmans is a skilled enough writer that reading the protagonist's opinions about obscure Latin authors somehow became enjoyable.In some ways a forerunner to American Psycho.
achelate on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A total roll through the senses. At times the book was hilarious, sensual and fascinating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great (and important) novel, but be careful—the Nook book (eBook) version of "Against Nature" is a BAD edition. I have no idea who the translator is, but the eBook version is NOT the Baldick translation. Worst of all, although not described as such, the eBook version is an EXPURGATED edition: one entire chapter has been censored out! If you want to read Huysmans's novel in English, get the Baldick translation. NOTE: The five star rating is for the novel itself. However, if I could rate just the Nook's eBook translation/edition, it would get zero stars.