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Becalmed cover image Becalmed

J.-K. Huysmans

Translated and Introduced by Terry Hale.
ISBN 0 947757 30 9
155pp 21 x 13.5cm
out of print

J.-K. Huysmans was the writer of the French Fin de siècle. His masterpiece was Against Nature - forever associated with the trial of Oscar Wilde - more or less defined the taste of the Decadents. Essentially a writer of disillusion, Huysmans’ books chart his autobiographical hero’s attempt, and failure, to find some meaning in life. Another novel La Bas (Down There) described the hero’s involvement in Satanism. Between these two seminal works Huysmans wrote another: Becalmed (En Rade) - it is their connecting link.

The protagonist of Becalmed seeks spiritual shelter in the countryside. He finds not rest but a nightmare - a gruesome crumbling house, peasants both stupid and cunning, and the landscape - indeed the whole natural world - in a ghastly state of decay. “A hemorrhage of ordure,” Huysmans calls it. His descriptions of Gothic intensity provide a total inversion of naturalism which is emphasized by the remarkable dream passages which intercut the novel.

In many ways this is Huysmans’ most extraordinary book, and despite its immediately following Against Nature, Zola called it “his most intense work” - later André Breton celebrated it in his “Anthology of Black Humour.”


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