Joris-Karl Huysmans

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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 (Against the Grain or Against Nature). His style is remarkable for its idiosyncratic use of the French language, wide-ranging vocabulary, wealth of detailed and sensuous description, and biting, satirical wit. The novels are also noteworthy for their encyclopaedic documentation, ranging from the catalogue of decadent Latin authors in À rebours to the discussion of the iconography of Christian architecture in La cathédrale. Huysmans' work expresses a disgust with modern life and a deep pessimism, which led the author first to the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer[1] then to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Contents

Parents and early life

He was born in Paris to a Dutch father, Godfried Huysmans, who was a lithographer by trade. His mother, Malvina Badin, had been a schoolmistress. He published his works as "Joris-Karl Huysmans", using an approximation of the Dutch equivalent of his forenames, to emphasize his roots. Huysmans' father died when he was eight years old, and his mother quickly remarried, leaving Huysmans feeling a great deal of resentment against his stepfather, Jules Og, a Protestant who was part owner of a Parisian book-bindery.

Huysmans' school years were unhappy but he obtained a baccalauréat. For thirty-two years, he worked as a civil servant for the French Ministry of the Interior, a job he found insufferably tedious. The young Huysmans was called up to fight in the Franco-Prussian War, but was invalided out with dysentery, an experience he described in his early story Sac au dos (Backpack) (later included in Les Soirées de Médan).

Writing career

Medieval
16th century · 17th century
18th century · 19th century
20th century · Contemporary

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