Against the Grain

Joris-Karl Huysmans
Against The Grain, by Joris-Karl

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Title: Against The Grain
Author: Joris-Karl Huysmans
Release Date: May 14, 2004 [EBook #12341]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by Harrison Ainsworth

AGAINST THE GRAIN by Joris-Karl Huysmans
Translated by John Howard

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 1
The Floressas Des Esseintes, to judge by the various portraits preserved
in the Chateau de Lourps, had originally been a family of stalwart
troopers and stern cavalry men. Closely arrayed, side by side, in the old
frames which their broad shoulders filled, they startled one with the
fixed gaze of their eyes, their fierce moustaches and the chests whose
deep curves filled the enormous shells of their cuirasses.

These were the ancestors. There were no portraits of their descendants
and a wide breach existed in the series of the faces of this race. Only
one painting served as a link to connect the past and present--a crafty,
mysterious head with haggard and gaunt features, cheekbones
punctuated with a comma of paint, the hair overspread with pearls, a
painted neck rising stiffly from the fluted ruff.
In this representation of one of the most intimate friends of the Duc
d'Epernon and the Marquis d'O, the ravages of a sluggish and
impoverished constitution were already noticeable.
It was obvious that the decadence of this family had followed an
unvarying course. The effemination of the males had continued with
quickened tempo. As if to conclude the work of long years, the Des
Esseintes had intermarried for two centuries, using up, in such
consanguineous unions, such strength as remained.
There was only one living scion of this family which had once been so
numerous that it had occupied all the territories of the Ile-de-France and
La Brie. The Duc Jean was a slender, nervous young man of thirty,
with hollow cheeks, cold, steel-blue eyes, a straight, thin nose and
delicate hands.
By a singular, atavistic reversion, the last descendant resembled the old
grandsire, from whom he had inherited the pointed, remarkably fair
beard and an ambiguous expression, at once weary and cunning.
His childhood had been an unhappy one. Menaced with scrofula and
afflicted with relentless fevers, he yet succeeded in crossing the
breakers of adolescence, thanks to fresh air and careful attention. He
grew stronger, overcame the languors of chlorosis and reached his full
His mother, a tall, pale, taciturn woman, died of anaemia, and his father
of some uncertain malady. Des Esseintes was then seventeen years of
He retained but a vague memory of his parents and felt neither

affection nor gratitude for them. He hardly knew his father, who
usually resided in Paris. He recalled his mother as she lay motionless in
a dim room of the Chateau de Lourps. The husband and wife would
meet on rare occasions, and he remembered those lifeless interviews
when his parents sat face to face in front of a round table faintly lit by a
lamp with a wide, low-hanging shade, for the duchesse could not
endure light or sound without being seized with a fit of nervousness. A
few, halting words would be exchanged between them in the gloom and
then the indifferent duc would depart to meet the first train back to
Jean's life at the Jesuit school, where he was sent to study, was more
pleasant. At first the Fathers pampered the lad whose intelligence
astonished them. But despite their efforts, they could not induce him to
concentrate on studies requiring discipline. He nibbled at various books
and was precociously brilliant in Latin. On the contrary, he was
absolutely incapable of construing two Greek words, showed no
aptitude for living languages and promptly proved himself a dunce
when obliged to master the elements of the sciences.
His family gave him little heed. Sometimes his father visited him at
school. "How are you . . . be good . . . study hard . . . "--and he was
gone. The lad passed the summer vacations at the Chateau de Lourps,
but his presence could not seduce his mother from her reveries. She
scarcely noticed him; when she did, her gaze would rest on
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