Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Against Against Nature

I've just finished J K Huysmans Against Nature, one of the most disagreeable novels I have ever read. To sum up the attitude of this Symbolist and decadent, I would call him aristocratic, in that, if 100 people were lying dead in a room, and three were his fellow highly-cultivated friends, he would only bring back those three friends to life, along with a fortunate fourth, who would be selected for "their low protruding brow, their strong frame, and the obedient cast of their features." This fourth person would be the skivvy required to haul out the remaining bodies for disposal. They would receive as payment a glass of poison. And, further, he would savour every bit, if not more, the death of the majority as much as the resurrection of the few.

So there it is, a novel that attempts to revivify only the tiniest aristocratic sliver of life, with everything else plunged back into the void.

The fact that the writer then converted to Catholicism after its publication is perhaps a clue to the flavour of this novel, best summed up by a line from The Clash's Death or Glory,

Those who fuck nuns / will later join the church"


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