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valutazioni:
3/5 (560 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
191 pagine
Pubblicato:
19 nov 2015
ISBN:
9788865960004
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

QUESTO LIBRO E' A LAYOUT FISSO

Definito dai critici il Manifesto del Decadentismo, questo romanzo rispecchia il sentire disgustato di tanti intellettuali europei di fronte alla nascente società industriale, alla fine dell’800.

Il protagonista, è un personaggio controcorrente, geniale, odioso, esteta maniacale, che vive un rapporto doloroso e intenso con la fede.

La sua angoscia, l’incapacità di trovare un posto nel mondo e un senso alla vita al di là della pura apparenza riflette la stessa pena esistenziale propria del nostro tempo.

Joris-Karl Huysmans (Parigi 1848 – 1907).
Francese di origine fiamminga, aderì dapprima al naturalismo, poi fu portavoce del Decadentismo europeo.

Fra i suoi scritti: Là-bas (1891).
Pubblicato:
19 nov 2015
ISBN:
9788865960004
Formato:
Libro

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Recensioni dei lettori

  • (2/5)
    I quit at 40%. Childish are the behaviour and philosophies of the protagonist who elaborates chapters long on Latin writers that are to his taste or not, flowers that he likes or not, etc. This novel of ideas is more a collection of essays than a narrative. Very boring!
  • (3/5)
    An odd one, a 'scandalous' book of its time that recounts the life of Jean Des Esseintes, who hates the 19th century French society he lives in and shuts himself away from it, indulging in various sorts of decadence - going through obsessions with flowers, jewellery, perfumes, classical literature etc. The book has no plot beyond his going into seclusion and its eventual end, but generally just catalogues his tastes in all those things in some detail. If that sounds rather boring, it is. The most interesting chapter is a memory from a previous time, and his attempts to make a passing young man into a murderer.That said, it was worth reading the book to have it to think about afterwards. The point of view it describes might not make for compelling reading but is certainly stark - reading the intro and appendices to the book, describing reaction to the book and how the author saw it afterwards was more interesting than the book itself. Huysmans saw the book as the start of his later conversion to Catholicism, which seems about right - Des Esseintes has contempt for the world and all things human but does not have the hope of anything better elsewhere. That is a tricky position to hold, intellectually and emotionally, and the reviewer who told him he needed either to shoot himself or convert had a point.
  • (4/5)
    Like Don Quixote this book possesses some magnificent chapters, and some that you just have to grimace through. There'll never be a better chapter than when Des Esseintes decides to journey to London, but doesn't actually make it.
  • (3/5)
    I was really enjoying this book - the protagonist's fussy, over-educated langour, his decadent dismissals of classical literature, the sumptuous textures of the setting - until the bit about the jeweled turtle. And I thought I was unshockable!
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (2/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    I had expected Huymans' A Rebours to be something similar to Lautremont's Maldoror, but this book is a different beast altogether. As did Maldoror, A Rebours eschews the notion of the traditional novel, though not in like manner. It is more a study of aesthetics, a critical text using the novel framework, defined by its tone rather than any sort of plot. The premise is visible right on the surface, being that the inventions of artifice from the minds of men are superior to the creations of the natural world. The themes of indulgence and excess here are of the same mold found in writings by other Symbolists such as Baudelaire, whose poems are praised by Huysmans' protagonist. The way in which they are presented here, however, will not be easy to digest for most.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    Lacking any real plot, this book is somewhere between a character study, a manual on how to achieve the pinnacle of decadence, a sermon on the merits and demerits of various artists, writers, and holymen, and a screed on the follies of modern life. I've never read anything like it, and while it was fascinating and largely enjoyable, I don't particularly wish to read anything like it again in the near future.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    grows better with age
  • (4/5)
    At the end of the nineteenth century a young, decadent aristocrat indulges himself in multiple forms of depravity. Reading this made me feel like what I imagine opium dreams must be like.
  • (3/5)
    A total roll through the senses. At times the book was hilarious, sensual and fascinating.
  • (4/5)
    This is the book from which "The Portrait of Dorian Gray" is based. Fascinating story of this type of surreal genre.
  • (2/5)
    This "novel" is actually a series of prose poems describing in minute detail the life of the mind of a fin-de-siecle decadent as viewed through the prism of his opinions about such matters as Latin literature and precious stones. As such, it hearkens back to the great decadent poets of the France of a generation earlier, and, to a lesser degree, the futurists who emerged a decade or so later. It is very difficult and unrewarding reading, despite the occasional impressive use of imagery, and few will care to plow through a book which requires four or five trips to the dictionary to complete reading one page.
  • (4/5)
    This is a sumptuously sensual book. Not much action, but the descriptions of the various aesthetic experiences are compelling, and the atmosphere of the fin-de-siecle ennui of the decadent aristocrat is tangible. Among many artists and writers that Huysmans mentions, Edgar Allan Poe comes up a number of times, and some of the scenery is reminiscent of some of Poe's Domains. An odd book, a rich banquet, a meditation on qualia. I am not quite sure what makes this a milestone of the Symbolist movement in literature, however.
  • (4/5)
    wow. a journey within a confined space. effete tastes refined beyond any pallet... a nutshell of infinite space. but allergic to nuts.
  • (5/5)
    I am a great fan of Huysmans, esoteric, mystic and hysteric that he was. In the closing years of the 19th century, fin-de-siecle literature was desperately trying to break free of naturalist modes, championed by its giant and erstwhile tutor of the young Huysmans, Emile Zola. Not possessing the virile protestant work ethic of his mentor, Huysmans wrote in starts and fits, "hysterically" one might say, and after dabbling in naturalism began pining for something more obscure, and more blatantly mystic and manichean. This is his opening salvo, and the decadent movement's overture against naturalism, an unapologetic rejection of the "real" world to turn, reclusively, towards the artificial and the arcane. Truly bizarre, this book is full of wonderful allusions to obscure artworks of all kinds and, not unintentionally in my opinion, will leave you dizzy if not nauseated by its irrepressible lists, cataloging the obsessional tastes of its immortal hero and dandy, des Esseintes.
  • (3/5)
    Jean Des Esseintes is a very rich man, the last of a noble family, who led a life of parties and mistresses in Paris, until he becomes disgusted by society, and moves to an isolated country house to enjoy his art treasures and books in quiet contemplation. He asserts that his tastes are highly discriminating, and he has rare books bound in rare leather, many paintings and drawings, often erotic, and goes through crazes for plants, then artificial plants, and even at one point a jeweled turtle. He has an elaborate dispenser of alcohlic spirits, that he can use to create just the right taste for his mood, and has an exhaustive collection of perfumes. In his isolation he begins to dream of previous affairs, becomes ill, and at the end is sent back to Paris by his doctor. The book is full of unusual words and detailed descriptins or musings about literature and Des Esseintes' collections.
  • (4/5)
    The author himself thought this book would be a universal flop; au contraire, it wasn't. Instead, it has affected writers, poets, libertines and other people around the world, and continues to impress, outrage and mess with people's ideas on what a book should be like.

    A man, Jean Des Esseintes, creates his own artistic creation through eccentric and bohemian ways. For example, he ponders the significance of colours and blends of those for ages, along with smells and sights.

    The translation is wonderful, riddled with footnotes and illustrations that flesh out Esseintes' surroundings and references, and the book contains a splendid end note from the translator along with a list of names and explanations; without the annotations, I would not have graded this book as highly as I have. Apart from the namedroppings, this book is worth a lot.
  • (5/5)
    Painfully beautiful, weighty ruminations on art, Latin , horticulture, Catholic literature and liturgical music parade past desiring only to be left alone. These stitches aphorisms and taxonimies obscure a darker edge to the novel. It is left unsaid but there is something of menace afoot.
  • (4/5)
    “Their imperfections pleased him, provided they were neither parasitic nor servile, and perhaps there was a grain of truth in his theory that the inferior and decadent writer, who is more subjective, though unfinished, distills a more irritating aperient and acid balm than the artist of the same period who is truly great. In his opinion, it was in their turbulent sketches that one perceived the exaltations of the most excitable sensibilities, the caprices of the most morbid psychological states, the most extravagant depravities of language charged, in spite of its rebelliousness, with the difficult task of containing the effervescent salts of sensations and ideas.”—Against Nature by Joris-Karl HuysmansAmen!À rebours. Against the grain. Against nature. No matter the translation or language it all comes out right. Decadence never seemed so austere; retreat never seemed so opulent. No wonder this had such an impact on Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. I’d discovered an odd painter from that time during research for my own psychological horror story of a painter, “Cripplegate”, who first gained prominence within the dark, detailed and deluded pages of Huysmans’ classic. What could seemingly be mistaken for a catalogue of grotesquery or litany of extravagance by those without imagination is really an exploration of a wasted human soul sealing himself within a self-made ivory tower and failing desperately at rebuilding some kind of kinship with humanity.Odilon Redon! That inimitable painter of surrealistic nightmares, hanging in that eccentric’s house, a unique voice within a unique voice of its era. Was Huysmans just being reactionary? Or was he dreadfully bored? Maybe he had a hyperthymic temperament like me. He’d taken as much as he could from his world, or at least his antihero had, immersed himself in oddities, wallpapered his existence with the outré and offensive, only to be broken by the expectation of it all. Alas, des Esseintes.So now what? Back to society? Back to another book? Back to another project to fool the brain into believing that this current existence is the one you were always meant for because it was the only one in which you could fashion it yourself? Except this book was written in 1884, sounds a hundred years older, and feels as modern as middle-aged angst aswim in seas technologically deeper than one can plumb with rusty anchor and busted chain.Hellfire Club! Sir Francis Dashwood bashing his head against the gothic walls of Strawberry Hill. Great splintered Horace Walpole! The first gothic novel. A break against tradition. Cutting against the grain. Embracing tradition, history, and throwing it aside to paint or write or forge something singular from within and have it trampled in the grass and full mocking glare of the sun. Pearls before swine. Maybe some things are better kept hidden. Locked in a treasure room and toasted over and over into dissipation. I have cried out to you! De Profundis. It’s only fitting it took one-hundred and thirty Psalms to hear that wail from the depths and make castle walls ring.Did any of these fucks feel any kind of affinity for their time? ‘Cause I sure as hell don’t. I’m just grateful that Huysmans had the guts to take a chance and lay it all out, vomit in the short grass, for the few of us who’ve been there to nod before turning politely away.
  • (4/5)
    The story of a man apart; a gorgeous, sickly anti-hero hermetically sealed from the common herd by an uncommon intellect. There is no plot as such, the book is a catalogue of things worth caring about (?): literature, art, beautiful things, jewels, perfumes. But where are all the people? Where is love? It's all very rarefied: Latin poets, Salom?, the black dinner, jewelled tortoises: all thrown into this golden baroque stew. Peter Greenaway could make a brilliant film from this. [Aug 1991][Jan 1997]
  • (4/5)
    An ornate, sickly, claustropobic book, full of fascinating discussions about art and literature, and studded with items of outré vocabulary (I still haven’t worked out what mœchialogie means). It is a novel for people who like talking about novels – the plot itself is slim and of little importance. I’ll summarise it quickly: des Esseintes, a rich, effete aristocrat, retires from a life of excess and debauchery to live in his retreat at Fontenay outside Paris, where he shuts himself off from the rest of the world and ekes out an existence in a cloying, hypochondriac, lamplit environment that has been elaborately constructed to meet his own aesthetic requirements.Basically, he’s a proto-hipster, who has had enough of dealing with Other People and wants to lock himself away from public opinion. Anything that's popular with anyone else is out – Goya gets taken down from his walls for being not obscure enough.Cette promiscuité dans l’admiration était d’ailleurs l’un des plus grands chagrins de sa vie ; d’incompréhensibles succès lui avaient à jamais gâté des tableaux et des livres jadis chers ; devant l’approbation des suffrages, il finissait par leur découvrir d’imperceptibles tares, et il les rejetait….[This promiscuity of admiration was one of the most distressing things in his life. Incomprehensible successes had permanently ruined books and paintings for him which he had previously held dear; faced with widespread public approbation, he ended up discovering imperceptible flaws in works, and rejecting them….]Although he has given up interpersonal relationships himself (even his servants have to wear felt slippers, so he doesn’t hear them walking around), he often reminisces about his previous conquests. I particularly loved the early description of his old bachelor pad, decorated in pink and lined with mirrors, which had beencélèbre parmi les filles qui se complaisaient à tremper leur nudité dans ce bain d’incarnat tiède qu’aromatisait l’odeur de menthe dégagée par le bois des meubles.[famous among the girls who had been pleased to soak their nudity in this bath of warm carnation infused by the smell of mint given off by the furniture.]His view of women in general is distinctly un-modern, but often weirdly fascinating. I liked the strange little anecdote of his liaison with a US circus performer, which read like an Angela Carter short story. (Unfortunately, in a complaint soon to become a cliché among European male writers, his American girlfriend turned out to have une retenue puritaine au lit). Des Esseintes moves on to date a ventriloquist, whom he makes lie out of sight and enact odd, symbolist dialogues between statues of a chimera and a sphinx that he bought for the occasion.There are even some aesthete-esque hints towards des Esseintes’s homosexual urges, with vague references to a young man who made him think about ‘sinning against the sixth and ninth of the Ten Commandments’.Other senses, too, get close examination. An entire chapter is given over to various exotic scents and perfumes which des Esseintes is trying to create. When it comes to taste, our hero has what he calls a ‘mouth organ’, which consists of several dozen barrels of alcoholic liqueurs ranged side by side, which he mixes-and-matches to create a variety of gustatory symphonies or harmonies to suit his current mood.The language all this is described in is deliberately rich and unnaturalistic. Huysmans’s basic approach is outlined when des Esseintes explains the kind of writing he admires among Latin authors – full ofverbes aux sucs épurés, de substantifs sentant l’encens, d’adjectifs bizarres, taillés grossièrement dans l’or, avec le goût barbare et charmant des bijoux goths….[the purified juice of verbs, nouns that smell of incence, bizarre adjectives scultped roughly from gold, with the barbaric, charming taste of Gothic jewels….]I came to Huysmans via Barbey d’Aurevilly, and it was nice to see that des Esseintes thinks so highly of Les Diaboliques that he had a special copy made, printed sacrilegiously on ecclesiastical parchment. Barbey reviewed À Rebours when it came out, and made a surprisingly perceptive comment that its author, like Baudelaire, would have to choose between la bouche d’un pistolet ou les pieds de la croix ‘the mouth of a pistol or the foot of the Cross’. What is it about these Decadent authors – Baudelaire, Huysmans, Barbey himself – that despite their obvious dislike of religion, they all ended up going back to the Catholic faith? Suffice to say that this novel draws its power to shock and delight from its willingness specifically to go against (à rebours) the ideals and principles of a Catholic culture – not that that prevents a more secular modern reader from being shocked and delighted in his or her own right.And they should be, it’s worth it. This book can be oppressive, but it’s a wonderful experience.
  • (5/5)
    'If rape and arson, poison and the knifehave not yet stitched their ludicrous designsonto the banal buckram of our fatesit is because our souls lack enterprise!But here among the scorpions and the hounds,the jackals, apes and vultures, snakes and wolves,monsters that howl and growl and squeal and crawl,in all the squalid zoo of vies, oneis even uglier and fouler than the rest,although the least flamboyant of the lot;this beast would gladly undermine the earthand swallow all creation in a yawn;I speak of Boredom which with ready tearsdreams of hangings as it puffs its pipe.Reader, you know this squeamish monster well,- hypocrite reader, - my alias, - my twin!’ --BaudelaireJoris-Karl Huysmans—sybarite, mystic, rake, oblate, and (of all things) civil servant—published what has been referred to as ‘the bible of the Decadence,’ À Rebours (often translated under the title of ‘Against Nature’ or ‘Against the Grain’), in 1884, setting in motion a literary movement that would come to include such icons as Mirbeau, Wilde, Rachilde, De Sa-Carneiro, and Beardsley. There had been earlier precursors who wore the mantle of ‘Decadent,’ sometimes with pride: Baudelaire, Poe, Gautier, Hugo; but it was Huysmans, with his callous disregard for convention, who established the motifs we refer to as ‘Decadent’ today. À Rebours has been viewed as more a catalog of tastes than a novel, considering that it is entirely devoid of a plot in any real understanding of the word; but the psychology of its central character, Des Esseintes, is a constant source of illumination, and remains as instrumental to defining the trappings of Decadence as the flamboyant catalog of literature, interior decoration, perfume, painting, and aesthetic experience that comprises the bulk of its pages. Des Esseintes, a libertine, grown weary with the sordid pleasures of fin de siècle Paris, retreats into solitude; purchasing a house, and filling it with countless objects that reflect an ornate, languid, and near-hallucinatory preoccupation with aesthetic excess, Des Esseintes begins a personal quest to seek out higher and higher avenues of experience, cloistered away in effete seclusion from the insipid trivialities and tedious ennui of modern life. Here, in reclusion, he is free to experiment with lavish predilections and whimsical pursuits not afforded by his previous circumstances: from fatally bejeweling a tortoise to surveying the degenerate concerns of authors and artists as varied as Petronius, Verlaine, Apuleius, Baudelaire, and Gustave Moreau; in a typical episode of À Rebours, Des Esseintes, who had before found more beauty in the patent artificiality of paper flowers than in their natural counterparts, decides that the ultimate in sensation would involve procuring natural flora that possess the curious and almost ridiculous distinction of appearing more false than their artificial analogues. This preoccupation with the supremacy of artificiality is, perhaps, the chief concern of À Rebours, illustrated with particular élan when Des Esseintes, who desires to travel to London as respite from the regularity of his life in seclusion, chances to dine, before embarking, at an English restaurant located in his abhorred Paris: after his meal, Des Esseintes promptly cancels his trip to England, returning to his country estate, having satisfied his desire to experience England by enjoying the artificial, Parisian notion of ‘England’ presented to him over dinner. On one hand, Des Esseintes is sure that he will be underwhelmed by the ‘real thing,’ as the beauty of a lover devoid of cosmetics cannot approach the painted opulence of an affected image; more subversively, however, our world-weary libertine is aware that the experience he seeks is of a uniquely ersatz variety, and that subjecting his ‘heightened tastes’ to the dismal, pedestrian pleasures of European society would dull, and perhaps corrupt, his delicate sensibilities. This rationalization is archetypal, in that it examines one of the key paradoxes of the Decadent world-view (a world-view which, it should be noted, revels in the charms of a good paradox): that, while the Decadent soul may seek redemption from his patent artificiality and adulterated perversions, he remains well-aware that the ‘purity’ of these notions of contrition is threatened chiefly by his own surfeit of experience: for how can gauche, prosaic 'reality' ever compare to the sumptuous unreality created by the Decadent imagination? And how can confessing the sins of the Decadent soul be a worthy pursuit when these sins, in and of themselves, illustrate the absurdity of both ‘confession’ and ‘sin?' Far more intriguing to the Decadent would be the affected comforts of a life of religious rigor, entirely devoid of the moral reflections that generally accompany it: the architecture of the church, to the Decadent, is far more paramount than the goings-on inside of it; the ephemeral, sensual allure of the incense and wine and costume and resonance of the organ can never be matched by the rituals for which they have been appropriated. Barbey d'Aurevilly may have been considering this puzzle when he famously portended a choice for the author of À Rebours between ‘the muzzle of a pistol and the foot of the Cross.’ Huysmans, intriguingly, chose the latter, applying to the rigorous philosophy of Catholic mysticism the same impassioned dedication his creation, Des Esseintes, applied to his own pursuit of aesthetic experience. Which is to say that Huysmans—author of the ‘bible’ of the Decadence, À Rebours—himself epitomizes the ultimate paradox of the Decadent imagination.
  • (4/5)
    But I just don't enjoy the pleasures other people enjoy!

    With this exclamation, Jean des Esseintes, the sole character in Huysmans' Against Nature, sums up the central theme of the novel.

    Against Nature is an atypical novel: there is only one character - the decadent and ailing aristocrat des Esseintes - and there is no traditional plot to speak of, rather the novel catalogues and discusses the varied tastes des Esseintes has in literature, art, music, perfume, and flowers to name a few. Des Esseintes prides himself on having tastes far removed from the common, vulgar crowd of everyday society, from whom he has secluded himself in an eremitic existence in a country manor to be left in solitude with his possessions and sensual experiences. Veering between extreme and nervous excitability to debilitating ennui, des Esseintes represents the ultimate in decadent fin de siècle aesthetics.

    Huysmans' prose is replete with obscure and idiosyncratic vocabulary and detailed narrative descriptions, all of which have ably and faithfully translated into English by Robert Baldick. Huysmans also displays an encyclopaedic knowledge of many subjects including perfumery, classical Latin authors, and tropical plants.

    Against Nature indeed goes against the grain of traditional plot-driven novels, focusing rather on the psychology and tastes of the central character, decadently languishing in luxurious tastes and emotions. It is a deeply interesting psychological study of one man and his retreat from society, and the effect it has on him. It remains a classic Symbolist and Decadent piece of literature, and as the author himself said, it has exploded onto the literary scene "like a meteorite" and remains powerful even now.

  • (5/5)
    Against Nature (A rebours in the French original, also sometimes translated as Against the Grain) concerns itself with a degenerate French aristocrat, Jean des Esseintes, the last of his line, who has sunk so deep into the mire of degradation and decadence that he is bored and disgusted with his life, to the extent that he sells the family chateau in order to create a stream of income and retreats to the suburbs, renouncing the debased life he has lived and all acquaintances, becoming in almost every way a luxuriating hermit, nevertheless taking care to employ servants who can shield him as inconspicuously as possible from the quotidian necessities of living. Des Esseintes' debauchery has left him debilitated and has turned him into a narcissistic and neurotic, if highly intelligent, hypochondriac who seems to enjoy ill health. Where his physical ailments end and his neuroses begin is unclear. He decorates his house according to his own unique aesthetic and surrounds himself with books and art which reflect that artistic sense which is revealed as the book progresses.A rebours is "against nature" in the sense that des Esseintes has concluded that man has outdone nature at her own game, so he contrives to surround himself with artifice. It is also "against the grain" in the sense that almost everything des Esseintes does and nearly all the opinions he expresses are the antithesis of popular taste. The very form the book takes is in counterpoint to the Naturalism that dominated contemporary French literature. At the time the book was published in 1884, it created a tremendous stir among the "Naturalists," Émile Zola in particular, as they believed Huysmans had struck the death knell of that brand of realism. However, A rebours is a one-of-a kind work, one upon which a school of literature could not realistically be fashioned. While it is a breathtaking read, one cannot seriously imagine wanting to read another like it. It is challenge enough to get through the original, not because it isn't entertaining, but the level of erudition, the vast vocabulary, the plethora of obscure literary references going back to Classical Latin, the catalogues of paintings, the lists of flora, of perfumes, of gemstones, not to mention the never-ending description, all go on and on leaving the reader gasping for a breath of fresh air. Consequently, it is not an easy book to read in either English or the French original. Copious notes and a good introduction are the order of the day. Thankfully, the Oxford World Classics edition provides both.Despite its being one of a kind, A rebours heralds the birth of the modern and post-modern novel. It is without a plot and treats of but one character, but the reader has the sense that a story is being told, although the story merely follows the timeline of des Esseintes' life. Some chapters cause one to ask: "Is this a novel or a scholarly treatise?" Others have an episodic quality. Regardless, the novel elevates description to new heights, as it is devoid of dialogue.As a literary artifact of the late nineteenth century, A rebours is tremendously interesting. There is much to be learned here, and readers interested in the history and development of literary types will probably find it fascinating. However, I do not think it will appeal to everyone. Just the same, I am very glad I read it.