Against the Grain

by Charles Marie Georges Huysmans

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 166

A Rebours, or Against the Grain, is a classic example of fin de siècle decadence. The term “fin de siècle” means “end of the century,” but specifically, it refers to the end of the nineteenth century, and the meaning of the term encompasses the literary and social movements associated with aestheticism and decadence. Supports of aestheticism and decadence included artists and writers who bucked tradition and produced art for art’s sake, rather than use art as a vehicle to convey a moral message. The decadents believed that art should be judged purely on its sensual qualities rather than its ability to impart morals. Huysman’s Against the Grain caused an uproar when it was published, and it was banned, as it was believed to be dangerous; It challenged Victorian values and condoned a decline in morality. The book focused on the life of an aristocrat named Des Esseintes who isolated himself from society to indulge his aesthetic tastes and pursue solely sensory pleasures.

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