Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Although writing fiction was the prime vocation of Joris-Karl Huysmans (HOY-smahnz) throughout his active career of some thirty years, his novels were regularly interspersed with other kinds of writing, mostly journalistic and, during his final decade, primarily religious. His first publication was not a novel but a collection of short journalistic pieces written in the lyric style of Charles Baudelaire’s prose poems: Le Drageoir aux épices (1874; A Dish of Spices, 1927). Six years later, he published a larger collection of the same kind of writing, this time under a more descriptive and prosaic title, Croquis parisiens (1880; Parisian Sketches, 1962). Neither collection of prose poems added significantly to his reputation, but when he turned his hand to art criticism, he was quickly noticed for his discernment in spotting the best work of the new Impressionist school.

Huysmans’s studies of Impressionism appeared in book form in 1883, under the title L’Art moderne. In 1905, toward the end of his life, he would publish another collection of articles on art and architecture, Certains (1889; translated with L’Art moderne as Critical Papers, 1927). That same year he also published Trois Primitifs (three primitives), an expression of his interest in religious art. His other nonfictional writings on religious subjects include the hagiographical Sainte Lydwine de Schiedam (1901; St. Lydwine of Schiedam, 1923) and a book about the meaning of the shrine at Lourdes, Les Foules de Lourdes (1906; The Crowds of Lourdes, 1925). For most of his career, he contributed articles to a variety of journals, on a variety of subjects—book reviews, drama criticism, social analysis, religious architecture—but very little of that work was collected and published in book form. However, several volumes of his correspondence with various public figures, literary and other, have been published.