Against the Grain

by Charles Marie Georges Huysmans

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Against the Grain, or a Rebours, was written by Joris Huysmans in 1884, and it tells the story of a young duke named Jean des Esseintes who indulges in a life of debauchery in Paris but suffers from tremendous boredom and bemoans his lack of purpose. He then retreats to a secluded villa outside Paris and devotes his life to doing nothing but indulging his aesthetic tastes. Des Esseintes lives in the country for about six months, during which time he immerses himself in art and literature and the acquisition of fine things. His health is ailing, and he lives a solitary existence, his every pursuit aimed solely at satisfying his desire for luxury and excess. Des Esseintes rejects society and he rejects scientific progress. He rejects anything associated with bourgeois ideals. Des Esseintes remains removed from these things until his health begins to deteriorate and he must return to Paris to get medical assistance. The story has very little plot, and it can be argued that des Esseintes’ life has very little purpose, as his existence revolves solely around self-indulgence and decadence.

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