Parisian Sketches (Dedalus European Classics) Paperback – 26 Sep 2014
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'No one, not even Toulouse-Lautrec, was so tireless a tracker of Paris s genius loci as Huysmans. Like many of his radical contemporaries, he was obsessed by the idea of beauty within the ugliness of back-street Paris, by the thought that the distortions of depravity presented a truer picture of our spiritual nature than conventional religion or revolutionary excess. The excellent introduction to these cameos show how Huysmans saw his art as complementary to the painter s.' --Murrough Obrien in The Independent on Sunday
'The nouveau journalism (new in 1880, anyway) described people who were artists' subjects - a hefty blonde trapeze artist at the Folies Bergere shaking the safety net, a journeyman baker like a powered Pierrot pummelling flaccid dough with mighty blows. And places, too, out on the fetid edges of a capital that was jerrybuilding distant arrondissements as fast as possible after Haussman had remodelled the ancient rues into grand boulevards. Huysmans was a genuine flaneur - no posing and no lounging, he was up and out every day filling notebooks with info we wouldn't otherwise now know about, such as the varied erotic odours of the female armpit before the invention of antiperspirant.' --VR in the Guardian
'Huysmans created evocative prose-pictures of Parisian life - a visit to the barber, a gloomy railway café, a chestnut-seller - that merit comparison with the pictures of Caillebotte, Degas and Atget.' --Christopher Hirst in the Independent
About the Author
J.-K. Huysmans (1847-1907) began writing as a naturalist in the style of Zola. His first novel Marthe(1876) was published by Dedalus in 2006 in a new translation by Brendan King. His early works excel in their descriptive ability and he is one of the greatest authors at describing the life of Paris and its surroundings as witnessed by his Parisian Sketches (Dedalus translation by Brendan King in 2004). He changed from being an obscure author and art critic to one of the most famous authors of his day with the publication of A Rebours in 1884. A Rebours is a ground breaking novel which captures the decadent spirit of the day and marks his final break with Zola and naturalism. Dedalus's translation by Brendan King was published in May 2008. His novel about Satanism, La-Bas (1891) is surely the cult novel of the nineteenth century. La-Bas is the first of four novels about Huysmans alter ego Durtal. Dedalus has published English translations of En Route (1895), The Cathedral (1898) and The Oblate of St Benedict (1903). Robert Baldick's brilliant book The Life of J.-K. Huysmans was published by Dedalus in the autumn of 2005, updated and edited by Brendan King. In 2010 Dedalus published Brendan King's new translation of Stranded (En Rade), followed in 2012 by the first English translation of The Vatard Sisters.
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But only a gross misreading would label the work of Huysmans as that of a man fascinated only with decadent whims and amoral extravagances. An admirable thinker, Huysmans impressions of the shameless and grotesque weekend excesses of his fellow Parisians cannot fail to call to mind our own even more rotten contemporary society.
This series of sketches represents a Huysmans who still held within him love/hate fascination with Parisian life, before he would turn his back on Paris, and Zola's naturalist movement, in A Rebours and the guidebook like novels charting the adventures of Durtal, his alter ego. If these Parisian Sketches are Baudelairean in one sense, where beauty and pleasure are drawn from deviance and repugnance, and the city dweller's manipulation of nature in order to match his bloated requirements evokes his own beautiful downfall, they just as easily evoke the colourful world of Renoir and Monet. They are impressions that precede the delight of Jean Renoir's "French Can-Can" as much as the bourgeois hypocrisies of Bunuel's "Belle de Jour".
Peppered with the original illustrations throughout , this volume is translated with subtlety by Brendan King and is a must for admirers of Huymans' work.