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Joris-Karl Huysmans - Against the Grain

Joris-Karl Huysmans - Against the Grain

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Published by: soundscape84 on Nov 17, 2010
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Against the Grain
Huysmans, Joris-Karl(Translator: John Howard)
About Huysmans:
Charles-Marie-Georges Huysmans (February 5, 1848 – May 12, 1907)was a French novelist who published his works as Joris-Karl Huysmans;he is most famous for the novel À rebours. His style is remarkable for itsidiosyncratic use of the French language, wide-ranging vocabulary,wealth of detailed and sensuous description, and biting, satirical wit. Thenovels are also noteworthy for their encyclopaedic documentation, ran-ging from the catalogue of decadent Latin authors in À rebours to thediscussion of the symbology of Christian architecture in La Cathédrale.Huysmans' work expresses a disgust with modern life and a deep pess-imism, which led the author first to the philosophy of Arthur Schopen-hauer then to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
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The Floressas Des Esseintes, to judge by the various portraits preservedin the Château de Lourps, had originally been a family of stalwart troop-ers and stern cavalry men. Closely arrayed, side by side, in the oldframes which their broad shoulders filled, they startled one with thefixed gaze of their eyes, their fierce moustaches and the chests whosedeep curves filled the enormous shells of their cuirasses.These were the ancestors. There were no portraits of their descendantsand a wide breach existed in the series of the faces of this race. Only onepainting served as a link to connect the past and present—a crafty, mys-terious head with haggard and gaunt features, cheekbones punctuatedwith a comma of paint, the hair overspread with pearls, a painted neckrising stiffly from the fluted ruff.In this representation of one of the most intimate friends of the Ducd'Epernon and the Marquis d'O, the ravages of a sluggish and impover-ished constitution were already noticeable.It was obvious that the decadence of this family had followed an un-varying course. The effemination of the males had continued withquickened tempo. As if to conclude the work of long years, the Des Es-seintes had intermarried for two centuries, using up, in such consanguin-eous unions, such strength as remained.There was only one living scion of this family which had once been sonumerous that it had occupied all the territories of the Ile-de-France andLa Brie. The Duc Jean was a slender, nervous young man of thirty, withhollow cheeks, cold, steel-blue eyes, a straight, thin nose and delicatehands.By a singular, atavistic reversion, the last descendant resembled theold grandsire, from whom he had inherited the pointed, remarkably fair beard and an ambiguous expression, at once weary and cunning.His childhood had been an unhappy one. Menaced with scrofula andafflicted with relentless fevers, he yet succeeded in crossing the breakersof adolescence, thanks to fresh air and careful attention. He grew

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