Against Nature (À Rebours)

By J. K. Huysmans,

Book cover of Against Nature (À Rebours)

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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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