Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Against Nature” as Want to Read:
Against Nature
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview
Read Book* *Different edition

Against Nature

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  5,725 ratings  ·  372 reviews
Resisting the traditional model of nineteenth-century fiction, Joris-Karl Huysman produced in 1884 a novel unlike any other of his time. Against Nature is the story of Des Esseintes, an aesthete who attempts to escape Paris and, along with it, the vulgarity of modern life. As Des Esseintes hides away in his museum of high taste, Huysman offers the reader a treasury of cult ...more
Paperback, 227 pages
Published August 1st 2009 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 1884)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Against Nature, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Against Nature

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
J.G. Keely
The hipsters are right: society is trying to destroy you--not your body, or your mind, but you, the part which makes an individual. That's what society is: the aspect of human life that is not the self, but is communal, the part that causes humanity to behave like a colony of ants.

As brilliant Nietzsche scholar Rick Roderick pointed out, advertisement is the opposite of psychotherapy. The idea of therapy is to take things that are hidden within your brain--biases, prejudices, hangups, fears, hab
Glenn Russell

'Against the Grain' (alternately translated as 'Against Nature') is a slim novel (110 pages) where French author Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848-1907) employs a torrent of baroque descriptions and unending streams of rococo linguistic curlicues to write about a bored, jaded aristocrat by the name of Des Esseintes, who uses his inherited wealth to seal himself off in a custom-made, artificial world where he can live his entire life on his own aesthetic and highly refined terms. There really isn’t any d
It must have been so exciting to be a novelist in the second half of the nineteenth century. You weren't limited to just creating a novel; if you were talented, you could create a whole new kind of novel. Here, Huysmans has written the first example known to me of the novel where nothing happens. Frail, sickly des Esseintes has dissipated a good part of his inheritance on various kinds of vice (there is a memorable passage early on about the mirrors in his bedroom). Now he's tired of it. He reso ...more
Bill  Kerwin

Did I really read this book forty years ago? Or did I just read the passages about the "perfume organ" and the jewel encrusted turtle and later assumed I had read the rest? If I did read it, I was completely wrong in my evaluation of this as a static, effete precursor to "Dorian Gray," a work marooned in the vanished aesthetic of the late nineteenth century. No, no. "Against the Grain" is much, much richer than that.

For starters, it is an accomplished work of realism that turns realism on its he
If Proust composed his In Search of Lost Time without having read this book, I'll eat my hat. Of course, the similarities may have been unavoidable when considering that both authors concern themselves with the period of haute couture and Faubourg Saint-Germain culture, and even chose the same aristocrat to model their own wildly eccentric characters on, the Comte de Montesquiou-Fezensac inspiring both Huysmans' Des Esseintes and Proust's Charlus. And it could have been sheer coincidence that Hu ...more
An ornate, sickly, claustropobic book, full of fascinating discussions about art and literature, and studded with items of outré vocabulary (I still haven’t worked out what mœchialogie means). It is a novel for people who like talking about novels – the plot itself is slim and of little importance. I’ll summarise it quickly: des Esseintes, a rich, effete aristocrat, retires from a life of excess and debauchery to live in his retreat at Fontenay outside Paris, where he shuts himself off from the ...more
MJ Nicholls
Some top reviews on here already, let me point you towards Manny, Lee, and Nate for excerpts and analysis. I feel no need to review this one, so I shan’t trouble you for likes (Mike—I mean it!) In short, I loved the ornate, glissading descriptions of art, music, perfume, theological texts, peptone enemas, and the fabulous namedropping of French writers such as the Goncourt Brothers, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Charles Cros, Verlaine, Mallarmé, Ernest Hello, Léon Bloy, Barbey d’Aurevilly, and Franço ...more
A dense drug trip. This celebrated work (1884) offers sensual and philosophic ruminations. There's no story. Each chapter has a theme: art, religion, literature, society, etc. Huysmans lauds painters
Gustave Moreau and Odilon Redon; writers Baudelaire, Mallarme, Poe. On a Symbolist "high," the reclusive hero seeks "new perfumes, ampler blossoms, untried pleasures." He arranges obscure words like exotic flowers as he speaks of a mistress "who loved to have her nipples macerated in scents."

Nate D
Des Essientes, a debauched noble at the end of his line, in rebellion against the modern world, humanity, and nature itself (the title is variably translated as "Aganist the Grain" or "Against Nature"), sells the family manor and retreats to a country house in order to languish in exquisite hypochondria and nervous affectation. What strength is left to him he expends obsessing over art, literature, design, and even gardening, in dissertations on artificiality and garish morbid splendor that comp ...more
If the hero of this novel had a more anglo-friendly name, it would be the byword for hyper-neurotic aesthete dandies, as Sherlock Holmes is in the world of detective. I don’t know how to properly pronounce des Esseintes, so I have always referred to him as that guy from Huysmans’ novel. Truth be told I don’t even know how to properly pronounce Huysmans, or rather I think I do but when I do I feel self-conscious. So I usually just spend my time thinking about des Esseintes and Huysmans, rather th ...more
The ideal novel for people who hate novels. And other people.
One doesn't read A Rebours, one lives in it, like a ghost that is compelled to haunt a place even though it would rather leave behind the place in which it was murdered. Once the book is finally closed, one deals with the hangover caused by existentialist self-loathing for every luxury one has ever allowed oneself.
ao arrepio - no original À Rebours ou a Bíblia do Decandentismo - é publicado em 1884, provocando uma viragem na corrente literária da altura - o Naturalismo, de que era representante o (meu) Grande Émile Zola - e dando início ao Modernismo.
É o livro amarelo que "envenena" Dorian Grey (de Oscar Wilde) e que ele considera responsável pela sua transformação e que o leva à perdição.

Era um romance sem enredo e com uma única personagem. Trata-se de um mero estudo psicológico de um determinado jovem
This is a brilliant book. Not only is it interesting in and of itself, containing some magnificent writing, but it presents an original and fundamental analysis of the entire movement away from Naturalism (Huysmans began as a disciple of Zola) and into Symbolism (Mallarmé), Decadence, and (hence) into Modernism (including even the strand that issues in the likes of a Julius Evola *). I have learned an enormous amount from reading it.

(* p. 146: "In these comparatively healthy volumes Barbey d'Aur
Difficult to do this one justice. Took forever to read its 200+ dense pages. Well worth it, especially for the plush, precise, unexpected turns of the language, multi-phrase pile-ups on the Trans-European Translation Expressway. Mostly a catalogue of art, books, and music the main dude likes. The main dude, also, is extraneurotic, extraordinarily rich, aestheticized to the extreme, and willfully isolated from the world. He has a garden of semi-pornographically described carnivorous plants. He pa ...more
Well, I can honestly say I've never read anything like it, nor have I encountered a character as oddly loveable and annoying as Des Esseintes. The last of a Hapsburg-esque line of ancestors, he's a misanthropic aristocrat ailing from generations of inbreeding and a life of excess and immobility, warped from being forever consumed with his own thoughts and nothing else. He builds a new home for himself with the intent of isolation, and pretty much exists within his own material possessions, compl ...more
The world we live in now is very much the world of Des Essenties, the hero of Against Nature. It is an excessively opulent, eccentric, and isolating world where we all busy ourselves with pastimes meant to sharpen and expand our appetites, where our reasons for curbing or moderating our rate of consumption often seem unconvincing and strain against the relentless irresolution that is the hallmark of distractive, modern entertainment. Added to that are all the stories we have to listen to from ol ...more
Feb 11, 2010 Tyler rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone; Aesthetes
Recommended to Tyler by: Goodreads Reviews
Dostoevsky mentioned in Notes From Underground that new technology brought with it merely a capacity for ever more refined sensations. Against Nature completes the idea of a century exhausted by progress. Here the protagonist searches like an addict for new experiences to relieve the boredom and disappointment of modern life.

The originality of this novel is its attraction. Only one character, Des Esseintes, makes up the story, and the action takes place mostly in his mind. His search for novelt
Highly recommended for the adventurous!
This is one of those books that you will either love or hate, and whatever reason you would have for either reaction I would completely understand and accept as valid. The book is not unlike a laundry list: if your laundry list happened to divide the clothes into type and color of fabric, dimensions, history of the development of the materials used, the sensation of folding each item and ad infinitum. The protagonist of the book reminds me of those saints w
Karen Witzler
I read this in 1978. I was a freshman at the University of Florida. I took it to a football game to read because I knew I would be bored without a book. I read a passage where Huysmans describes the glorious un-naturalness of the color combination of orange and blue. I laughed out loud. I suppose I should re-read, but my copy , with so many other treasures, has been lost to downsizing. I hope a young person bought it from the library sale and reads it in the bright sunlight.
May 23, 2013 Antonomasia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Antonomasia by: many people, over many years; some friends, some famous
Oxford World's Classics edition translated by Margaret Mauldon

I finally read this properly in one go... Though when I say in one go, that was over a few days: I found it like the richest, most gorgeous cake imaginable. I could hardly imagine anything more wonderful whilst I was reading it, but every now and again I paused, and the pause turned into hours or a day or two as I realised retrospectively a feeling of sensory overload. Perhaps not unlike that des Esseintes experiences when confronted
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
An aging Parisian aristocrat, fed up with the usual, decides to withdraw from the world and live a solitary life. No plot, one character: just this guy, Des Esseintes (he has servants, but they're non-characters, he doesn't even talk to them). He ensconces himself in an isolated villa determined to give himself only the best--or what he thinks are the best. He extols them and rants against what he hates. Here is where some readers are appalled because some of the choices he makes appear to be do ...more
Jul 20, 2008 Chris rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of some strange stuff
Flabbergastingly weird. This can either be the best reason to give this book a chance, and also the greatest grounds for avoiding it like the plague. Just as a quick ‘heads-up’ for anyone fishing for a better review than my own, this book is titled “A Rebours” in its native French, and I’ve seen this title translated into English as both “Against Nature” and “Against the Grain”, (and while I’m partial to “Against Nature”, I’m sure the Bad Religion fans of the world can better appreciate the latt ...more
Maria Pallozzi
E' il racconto di un uomo che si ritira in collina, poco distante da Parigi, spinto dalla stanchezza e dal delirio provocato dalla sifilide. Qui si trincera in un mondo che simula quello naturale ma che è totalmente artificiale, tra profumi e fiori artificiali che sembrano veri e poi fiori veri che sembrano artificiali, quadri, accostamenti cromatici e avventure oniriche, in una tensione tra i languori passati e i livori presenti, nel timore d'un futuro già scritto destinato ad una miseria intel ...more
Mike Lester
The very bible of the Decadent movement, A Rebours has influenced countless writers (and painters, and interior decorators, and dandies of all stripes.) This is not so much a novel as it is a sort of journal of Des Essientes quest for perfection in his surroundings. There was a period of my life (mid 20's) when my friends called me Des Essientes (though I was never as snazzy a dresser and have never owned a bejeweled tortoise. Come to think of it, those who called me by that name had never read ...more
To go along with my increasing interest in decadence and dandyism of fin de siècle France, I've added this gem of a novel about an aesthete who isolates himself from the world. There are way too many references to things that I don't know about for me to have a complete appreciation of the novel's many intricacies, but the parts I do understand were often hilarious and interestingly written.
Cartea este excelentă, dar evitați dacă puteți ediția asta scoasă cu ziarul "Cotidianul". E tradusă ca naiba în foarte multe locuri.
Stephanie Ricker
I read Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans, a copy of which I swiped years ago from a professor’s free-book shelf. Oscar Wilde was evidently fascinated by the book, and in The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian reads this “poisonous French novel” and is obsessed by it. What sort of book would Dorian Gray enjoy, you ask? Mainly a very long catalogue of the likes and dislikes of an effete, high-strung , overly intellectual wuss possessing far too much time and money and lacking all common sense. The ...more
Born in Paris, J.-K. Huysmans (1848-1907) published this novel in 1884, and a strange novel it is. The protagonist is Duc Jean des Esseintes, the end of a long and degenerating ancestral line. The story is exclusively about this reclusive aesthete, a figure dissolute, effete, arrogant, and artificial, virtually everything about him being neurotic and perverse. Huysmans’s use of description is exquisite, and by way of his detailed descriptions the reader gains an increasingly vivid understanding ...more
Sash Chiesa
I had been keeping it on the backburner for a while. It was intimidating at first. The character and the only character Des Esseintes is the epitome of an elitist, a glutton, having a disdain for almost everything. His uncanny withdrawal into an uncanny solitude. His arrangement for maintaining that solitude is remarkable. Des Esseintes is an intricately woven character and this book is an intimate experience into his reflections on various things ranging from his specifications about his house, ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Huysmans and Aesthetics 5 35 May 27, 2014 01:44AM  
  • Mademoiselle de Maupin
  • The Temptation of St. Antony
  • Les Diaboliques
  • Les Chants de Maldoror
  • The Holy Terrors
  • Locus Solus
  • Hell
  • Marius the Epicurean
  • Bruges-La-Morte and the Death Throes of Towns
  • Born in Exile
  • The Counterfeiters
  • Pierre et Jean
  • Aurélia and Other Writings
  • The Guermantes Way  (In Search of Lost Time, #3)
  • The Torture Garden
  • Our Lady of the Flowers
  • Lost Illusions (La Comédie Humaine)
  • La confession d'un enfant du siècle
French novelist who published his works as Joris-Karl Huysmans. He is most famous for the novel À rebours (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 decad ...more
More about Joris-Karl Huysmans...
Là-Bas (Down There) En Route With the Flow Becalmed The Cathedral

Share This Book

“Immersed in solitude, he would dream or read far into the night. By protracted contemplation of the same thoughts, his mind grew sharp, his vague, undeveloped ideas took on form.” 67 likes
“His contempt for humanity grew fiercer, and at last he came to realize that the world is made up mostly of fools and scoundrels. It became perfectly clear to him that he could entertain no hope of finding in someone else the same aspirations and antipathies; no hope of linking up with a mind which, like his own, took pleasure in a life of studious decrepitude; no hope of associating an intelligence as sharp and wayward as his own with any author or scholar.” 55 likes
More quotes…