By Joris-Karl Huysmans, Patrick McGuinness

The hero of this curious novel is des Esseintes, a neurasthenic aristocrat who has became his again at the vulgarity of recent lifestyles and retreated to an remoted nation villa. right here, observed in simple terms through a number of silent servants, he pursues his obsessions with unique vegetation, infrequent gemstones, and complicated perfumes and embarks on a sequence of more and more unusual aesthetic experiments, beginning with the choice to offer his sizeable puppy tortoise a jewel-encrusted shell...

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1877 Aug. L’Artiste serializes Sac au dos. 1878 1 Jan. a. 1879 26 Feb. Les Soeurs Vatard (tr. The Vatard Sisters, 1983), a study of the lives of women working as bookbinders, is published. The work is dedicated to Zola. 1879 17 May Le Voltaire, on Zola’s recommendation, publishes Huysmans’ first article on the Salon, the main artistic event in the Parisian calendar. 1880 1 Jan. a. 1880 April Sac au dos (tr. Knapsack, 1907) appears in Les Soirées de Medan, a collection of war stories, together with tales by Zola and Maupassant.

He owns, and money is rarely far from the surface of this book ostensibly about the ascetic and cultured life, the search for the uncontaminated pleasure of pure art. Indeed, his passion for reproducing, commissioning copies, having finely bound books and made-to-measure interiors is uncannily like that of the early twentieth-century (American) millionaire: buying, transporting, transplanting. He is also a book fetishist, in whom the bibliophile – the lover of the book as object – overcomes the reader.

We notice how, despite his tirades against the ‘American century’, modern consumerism and ownership, he takes advantage of all of these. He owns, and money is rarely far from the surface of this book ostensibly about the ascetic and cultured life, the search for the uncontaminated pleasure of pure art. Indeed, his passion for reproducing, commissioning copies, having finely bound books and made-to-measure interiors is uncannily like that of the early twentieth-century (American) millionaire: buying, transporting, transplanting.

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