Descended from a Dutch family of painters, French novelist Charles Marie Georges Huysmans (Dutch HOY-smahns or French wees-mahns) wrote under the pseudonym of Joris-Karl, or J.-K., Huysmans. After receiving a baccalauréat in 1866, he worked for thirty years in the Ministry of the Interior. This provided Huysmans with a small income that allowed him to devote his free time to literature. He was drafted into the National Guard in 1870 and served at the front during the Franco-Prussian War and then as a clerk. His first volume of stories showed the influence of Charles Baudelaire. He next came under the influence of Émile Zola, whom he knew well; he wrote a series of novels of everyday life in which he tried to outdo his master in the field of naturalism.
Some of Huysmans’s works were self-published or published outside France, partly because of their controversial nature. He was also active as an art critic and advocate of impressionism, writing for Le Voltaire, L’Art Moderne, and other periodicals in the late 1870’s and early 1880’s. Taking a new direction with the publication of Against the Grain, he produced his most important novel and the first volume of a loosely connected series. This story of the decadent aristocrat, the Duc des Esseintes, had a great influence on French and English writers of the 1890’s and is described in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The jaded duc,...
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