Against Nature (À Rebours)

By J. K. Huysmans,

Book cover of Against Nature (À Rebours)

Book description

Originally published in French under the title “À Rebours” in 1884 and translated into English in 1926, “Against Nature”, also known as “Against the Grain”, is a book by Joris-Karl Huysmans and is well described by its subtitle “A Novel Without a Plot”. The premise of the novel is simple…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked Against Nature (À Rebours) as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I always recommend this short read to anyone wanting to understand the weird, dystopic side of the late 19th-century Symbolist movement. Written in 1884 at the beginning of the avant-garde art movement that launched 20th-century modernism and abstraction, Huysmans tells the tale of an aristocrat repulsed by a Paris transformed by urbanization, commercialization, and massive immigration who builds himself a ‘Fortress of Solitude’ in a quiet suburb and interacts with the world through his imagination with the help of a loyal servant who maintained his physical milieu, silently serving meals and performing domestic tasks. Who doesn’t want to…

From Michelle's list on Paris for foodies and historians.

I always assumed that nineteenth-century French literature would be either too highbrow or too earnest—until I read this book. A Parisian aristocrat, immensely rich, neurotic, and reclusive, despises bourgeois society and dedicates his life to satisfying his aesthetic passions. A passion, above all, for artifice: the exotic, the unnatural, the perverse. There’s his liqueur organ, the jewel-encrusted tortoise, the poetry he writes with perfumes. It’s a perfect complement to the modern exotic fantasies of JG Ballard.

Oscar Wilde said this was the ‘yellow book’ which seduced Dorian Gray to a life of decadence. As a university student in the Swinging…

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