Short summary - À rebours - Joris-Karl Huysmans

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - À rebours
Joris-Karl Huysmans

Introduction
Several portraits of representatives of the Floressas des Esseintes family have survived in the castle of Lurpe. These were portraits of mighty, stern Reitars and warriors. From the portraits of subsequent representatives of the family, only the image of "a man of sly and mysterious, with some kind of deceitful, elongated face, slightly roughened cheekbones, hair anointed and entwined with pearls, and a long white neck in a tight collar" have survived. The degeneration of the genus continued. As if completing the work of the time, des Essences entered into marriage alliances within the family for two centuries. The remnant of the former power was lost in kindred marriages.
From the family, once numerous, which occupied almost the entire Ile-de-France, now there was only one offspring, “Duke Jean, a fragile young man of thirty, anemic and nervous, with cold pale blue eyes, sunken cheeks, regular, but somehow loose nose and hands dry and lifeless. According to some strange law of atavism, the last representative of the family resembled an ancient ancestor, a handsome man, from whom he inherited an unusually light beard with a wedge and a double look - tired and cunning. "
Jean's childhood was gloomy and passed in constant illness. Young Des Esseintes studied with the Jesuits. The monks did not particularly push the boy, so his training was somewhat superficial: he “jokingly learned Latin, but in Greek he could not connect two words, he did not show aptitude for modern languages, and in the exact sciences, even when passing the very basics, he turned out to be a complete dumbass < …> He lived quite happily, barely noticing the tutelage of his mentors; he studied Latin and French for his pleasure; and, although theology was not included in the school curriculum, he fully improved in it, starting to study it in the castle of Lurp from the books passed to him from the great-uncle of Don Prosper, the abbot of the Abbey of Saint-Ruffe. "
Upon returning from the boarding house, he did not get along with his peers and increasingly thought about solitude. Love could have saved him, but the women were stupid and boring. He embarked on a revelry, but his health could not stand and the doctors strongly advised him to stop. Having counted the remaining money, Des Esseintes was horrified: there was practically no money left. “And he made up his mind: he sold the castle Lurp, in which he had never been and of which he did not retain either happy or sad memories; got away with the rest of the property and bought the government rent; thus secured for himself an annual income of 50 thousand livres, and besides, he set aside a decent amount for the purchase and arrangement of his final home. He traveled around the capital's suburbs and in one of them, called Fontenay-aux-Roses, in the outskirts, near the forest, he found a house. A dream come true: in a suburb flooded with Parisians, he found solitude. "
Chapter 1
After 2 months, des Esseintes was able to retire in the silence and grace of the Fontaneus house and began to arrange it. He thought carefully about the colors he wanted to see and furnished the living room and study. “And des Esseintes came up with the idea of tightening the walls of the office, like books, with morocco, coarse-grained Moroccan leather, emerging from under the thick steel plates of a powerful press. After the walls were finished, he ordered the baseboards to be painted with lacquered indigo - the dark blue paint that coachmen used to cover the carriage panels, and with morocco go along the edge of the ceiling and tighten it so that it looked like an open dormer window, sky blue, woven silvery angels, silk. This fabric was once made by the Cologne weaving company and was intended for church robes. "
Chapter 2
Here is the story of how des Esseintes taught his servants to serve him unnoticed, so that they were not visible at all, and also accustomed them to his regime: “Once and for all, he appointed a meal time; the dishes, however, were modest and unpretentious, since the sick stomach did not eat plentiful or heavy food. At five o'clock in the evening, already at dusk in winter, he had breakfast: he ate two soft-boiled eggs, roast and drank a cup of tea; I had dinner at eleven in the evening; at night he drank coffee, and sometimes wine or tea. Des Esseintes dined lightly, or rather, had a snack at five in the morning, going to bed. " Des Esseintes was daydreaming all day long. He looked out the window, saw people passing by, noticed the stamp of stupidity on their faces. He also believed that it was not necessary to travel, it was enough to imagine a journey.
Chapter 3
Description of the library des Essenta. It featured only those writers who, according to des Essenta, wrote in their works about something decadent and decaying. His opinion about Latin-speaking writers was rather low: “gentle Virgil seemed to him a terrible, unbearable pedant, the first bore of antiquity. <...> I must say that, not particularly respecting Virgil and disliking the clear and abundant Ovid, he infinitely and with all the fervor of his soul hated Horace with his elephantine grace, puppy yelping and clown antics. As for prose, the abundance of verbs, the flowery syllable, the intricate phrases of the Pea-Vo-Rtu des Esseintes also did not particularly favor. <...> But he also liked Caesar with his vaunted laconicism no more than Cicero, since this extreme of a different kind contained the dryness of the reference book, tight-fistedness, unacceptable and inappropriate. Sallust, however, is still not as dull as the others, Titus Livy is too sensitive and pompous, Seneca is pretentious and colorless, Suetonius is lethargic and immature. Tacitus, in his deliberate conciseness, is the most nervous, harsh, most muscular of all. And as for poetry, neither Juvenal, although he was thoroughly grounded in rhyme, nor Persius, although he surrounded himself with mystery, did not touch him in the least. He did not appreciate neither Tibullus with Propertius, nor Quintilian, nor both Plinyes, nor Statius, nor Martial Bilibilsky, nor Terence, nor even Plautus. " Des Esseintes appreciated only Petronius, Apuleius, Commodian de Gaza. In general, the library des Esseintes included works up to the 10th century.
Chapter 4
One evening, a carriage stopped at the house: a turtle was brought. Des Esseintes decided that his carpets would look better if a turtle crawled on them, the shell of which is inlaid with gold and precious stones. Jean found the drawing himself and chose the stones (the description of the stones is given in great detail). However, it turned out that this idea was not very clever - the turtle died on the same evening.
Des Esseintes contemplated that all tastes can be compared to musical instruments. He even had an "organ", which is actually a lot of bottles of wine with taps. The owner could use it to "compose" cocktails. But today he didn't want to compose. The taste of Irish whiskey reminded him of the story of how one day he had a toothache and had to go to the dentist. I also remembered the wild pain he experienced when his tooth was pulled out.
Chapter 5
The entire chapter is devoted to paintings belonging to des Essences. This is "Salome" by Gustave Moreau, where the heroine is a living embodiment of temptation and crime, "Revelation" on the same theme, only in the center is the already frozen gaze of the dead head of the Forerunner, directed at the stunned Salome.
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In the drawing room des Esseintes hung a series of Luiken's prints "Persecution for the Faith", in the hallway - an engraving by Breden "The Comedy of Death" and "The Good Samaritan", as well as canvases by Odilon Redon.
Chapter 6
Dedicated to memories. The first is the case when des Essenta's friend, D'Aigurand, decided to marry. Everyone discouraged him, in contrast to Des Essenta, who encouraged this act, secretly expecting that the spouses would leave. And so it happened. The second memory was Auguste Langlois (16 years old). Des Esseintes met him on the street and brought him to a brothel. There he paid the hostess a large sum and said that the boy could come here 2 times a week. When the money runs out, Auguste, according to des Essenta's calculations, will go to steal in order to get money to pay for the pleasures, and then he will kill someone. Des Esseintes cherished the dream of creating an assassin in this way. But this either did not happen, or Des Esseintes simply did not find out about it.
Chapter 7
Des Esseintes abandoned reading and began to plunge more and more into the past. After awakening for a while, he tried to plunge headlong into Latin, but again a flood of memories poured in, this time from childhood. Des Esseintes remembered the Jesuits, he was drawn to faith. "However, he knew himself very well and was sure that he was not capable of truly Christian humility or repentance." Nevertheless, the Jesuits managed to instill in Des Essence a love for the divine. Thanks to loneliness, she began to wake up in his soul. He began to resist, and in this he was helped by the philosophy of Schoperhauer. Des Esseintes calmed down.
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Chapter 8
Des Esseintes decided to buy flowers to decorate his home. He began to look for fresh flowers that imitate artificial ones. When the plants arrived, des Esseintes breathed in their scent so much that he had a nightmare about the carnivorous flower woman and the rider of Syphilis.
Chapter 9
Reasoning about painters (Goya, Rembrandt). Reading Dickens and memories of mistresses. A detailed story about one of the first, the circus Urania. Des Esseintes desired her, as he imagined that she had many male habits. In this way he satisfied his attraction to brute male power. Then he slept with the ventriloquist, forcing her to speak in the voice of a man who allegedly caught them and threatened them with violence. The last he remembered was a young man with whom he also had a connection.
Chapter 10
The neurosis has worsened. Des Esseintes began to hallucinate. He smelled frangipan (Italian perfume) everywhere. To get rid of it, des Esseintes mixed several scents to create perfume compositions. However, the abundance of odors gave him a headache and fainted.
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Chapter 11 The
servants, frightened, ran after the Fontaneus doctor. But what kind of ailment des Esseintes had, he did not understand. Mumbling some medical terms, feeling Des Essence's pulse and looking at his tongue, the doctor tried to restore his speechlessness, but, having achieved nothing, prescribed a sedative and complete rest and said that he would visit him tomorrow. But Des Esseintes shook his head, making it clear with the last of his strength that he did not approve of the zeal of the servants and was driving the stranger out. Des Esseintes decided to go to London, packed his bags and went to Galignani's Messenger to buy a guidebook. Having bought it, des Esseintes dined in the Bodega wine cellar, looking at the visitors and imagining England. Finally he decided it was time to go home.
Chapter 12
Looking through his books, Des Esseintes remembered where he ordered the next copy, in which printing house he printed, what cover, paper, font he chose and why. Reasoning about Baudelaire, Villon, Agrippa d'Aubigne. “With the exception of these few books, French literature at the Bibliotheque des Esseintes dates back to the 19th century. It was divided into two parts: the first included secular literature; in the second - the church one ”. These are authors such as Lacorder, Comte de Falloux, Veillot and others.
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Chapter 13
It got hotter and hotter. Des Essenta's health worsened. He could not stand the heat, he could not eat, he was constantly nauseous. Once, while relaxing in the Parc des Esseintes, he watched the village boys fight. Seeing one of them had a sandwich with white homemade cheese and onions, des Esseintes was terribly hungry. He ordered the servants to make him the same sandwich, but while they went to the village for food, des Esseintes again felt ill. Returning to the house, he saw an astrolabe, which he used instead of a paperweight, and, remembering Paris, began to talk about morality, protection and abortion.
Chapter 14
Again, reasoning about writers and literature. Des Essenta's favorite writers are Flaubert, the Goncourt brothers, Zola, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Corbières, Annon and Mallarmé. Des Esseintes concludes that the ideal novel is “a novel in a few phrases - a squeeze from hundreds of pages with their images of the environment, characters, pictures of morals and sketches of the smallest facts. These will be words so carefully selected and capacious that they will make up for the absence of all others. The adjective will become so transparent and precise that it will firmly adhere to the noun and open the reader an immense perspective; it will allow for weeks to dream and guess over its meaning - both narrow and wide; and he will reveal the soul of the characters in full: outline in the present, restore in the past, foresee in the future. And all this is due to one single definition. A one-two-page novel will make possible the co-creation of a masterfully pen writer and an ideal reader, spiritually bring together those few beings of a higher order that are scattered in the universe, and will give these chosen ones a special, accessible pleasure to them. " Des Essenta is again tormented by stomach pains and the servant cooks broth for him every day according to a special recipe.
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Chapter 15
However, after a while, the broth stops helping. Tormented by auditory hallucinations, Des Esseintes calls the doctor. Waiting for his visit, he is sometimes angry, then tormented by the fear of death. The doctor who finally arrives strongly recommends eating well. However, nausea does not allow this. And then the doctor offers an enema, from which Des Esseintes is delighted. “His thirst for artificiality was now, even against his will, fully satisfied. There is nowhere to be fuller. Artificial nutrition is the limit of artificiality! " After that, the doctor insisted on changing his place of residence and returning to a "normal" life in Paris.
Chapter 16
Des Esseintes gathered his things. He did not want to leave the house and he distracted himself with thoughts of discord in the church over wine, which is diluted, and bread, which is not baked from wheat, but from starch. The novel ends with a passionate prayer to the Lord for protection.