Huysmans seems to have written a novel of simple plot, vain sympathies and marvellous aesthetics; however, this novel does a lot more than convey the coloured life of a certain bigotted intellect. One could perhaps even consider this book to act as prolepsis for twenty-first century novels such as Sartre's first published work, "Nausea", as its candid portrayal of a solitary life, and its effects on Des Essientes immediately promted recollections of the wandering mind of Roquentin as he strolled down the sea front in Bouville. Also, the tragedy of Des Essientes final prescription is one which leaves the reader in a deeply and profoundly melancholic state, as Des Essientes is served a treatment which, to him, is perhaps worse than death. As a social commentary it depicts a society finally surrendering to "human mediocrity" and a conformity and materialism that we know all too well today.
Calling this novel an aesthetical novel is essentially naive. This novel is so much more: a harrowing portrayal of the death of a kind of life. One man's battle with the world he lives in, grasping at the heels of the pleasures he loves in the vain hope that they'll stay. Not a perfect novel, but essential reading for any one who has read the likes of Wilde, Zola, Baudelaire, Sartre, or anyone at all concerned with France in the 19th century.