The Middle Ages… knew that everything on earth is a sign, a figure, that the visible is only worth what it extracts from the invisible; the Middle Ages… which were not gullible, as we are, to appearances, closely studied this science and made it the caretaker and the servant of mysticism.
—  Joris-Karl Huysmans, excerpted from “The Cathedral”
When he came to his senses again, he found that he was utterly alone, completely disillusioned, abominably tired; and he longed to make an end of it all, prevented only by the cowardice of his flesh.
The idea of hiding away from society, of shutting himself up in some snug retreat, of deadening the thunderous din of life’s inexorable activity, just as people deadened the noise of traffic by laying down straw outside a sick person’s house - this idea tempted him more than ever.
—  Excerpt from Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans

Arthur Rimbaud · Paul Verlaine

J.-K. Huysmans · Villiers de l’Isle-Adam

Stéphane Mallarmé · Pierre Louÿs

Robert de Montesquiou · André Gide

* Selection of portraits of French writers by Félix Vallotton, from ’Le Livre des masques’ by Remy de Gourmont.

Enfin, depuis son départ de Paris, il s’éloignait de plus en plus, de la réalité et surtout du monde contemporain qu’il tenait en une croissante horreur ; cette haine avait forcément agi sur ses goûts littéraires et artistiques, et il se détournait le plus possible des tableaux et des livres dont les sujets délimités se reléguaient dans la vie moderne.
—  À rebours, Joris-Karl Huysmans.
He had to live on himself, to feed on his own substance, like those animals that lie torpid in a hole all winter. Solitude had acted on his brain like a narcotic, first exciting and stimulating him, then inducing a languor haunted by vague reveries, vitiating his plans, nullifying his intentions, leading a whole cavalcade of dreams to which he passively submitted, without even trying to get away.
—  Excerpt from Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans

Barbaric in its profusion, violent in its emphasis, wearying in its splendor, it is - especially in regard to things seen - extraordinarily expressive, with all the shades of a painter’s palette. Elaborately and deliberately perverse, it is in its very perversity that Huysmans’ work - so fascinating, so repellent, so instinctively artificial - comes to represent, as the work of no other writer can be said to do, the main tendencies, the chief results, of the Decadent movement in literature.

Arthur Symons, The Decadent Movement in Literature

Following his conversion, Huysmans—unlike his books, if one is disposed to agree with Coppée—was presumably not destined for the Enfer section of the eternal Library of Souls, but perhaps that ought not to be judged as an entirely happy ending. It is difficult to think of any other man—even among the ill-tempered ranks of doggedly nonconformist writers—who might have found as much in Hell to savor.
—  The Decadent World-View by Brian Stableford
The colour he preferred to all others was orange, thus confirming his own theory:
- Those whose vision has been refined through contact with literature and art, the individual who dreams of ideal beauty, who craves illusions, are as a rule attracted to blue and its derivates - mauve, lilac and pearl grey.
- By constrast, those who affect the military style, who are full-blooded, handsome and brash, take pleasure in the brightness of yellows and reds.
- Lastly we have those weak and nervous people, their eyes, almost without exception, are drawn to that irritating, morbid colour, its febrile sourness: orange.
—  Against Nature, by Joris-Karl Huysmans

Dust - it’s fine. It tastes like a stale biscuit and smell reminiscent of old books. Dust - weightless velvet, covering things, fine dry rain, that moderates bright colors and barbaric paint. Dust - a symbol of abandonment, veil of forgetfulness..


Joris-Karl Huysmans