The cult novel of fin de siècle decadence that inspired Oscar Wilde ‘It will be biggest fiasco of the year – but I don’t give a damn! It will be something nobody has ever done before.’ The title page of the first complete English translation of Against Nature (published in the French as À Rebours) included the caption ‘the book that Dorian Gray loved and inspired Oscar Wilde.’ It was, declared Wilde, one of the best novels he had ever read.
It is the story of Jean des Esseintes, the last of a proud and noble family, who retreats from the world in disgust at bourgeois society and leads a life based on cultivation of the senses through art. Des Esseintes distills perfumes from the rarest oils and essences, he creates a garden of poisonous flowers, sets gemstones in a tortoise’s gold-painted shell and plans to corrupt a street urchin until he is degraded enough to commit murder. Des Esseintes’ aesthetic pilgrimage is described in minutely documented realistic detail and was widely regarded as the guidebook of decadence.
This influential novel is now available in a new translation by Theo Cuffe and includes a preface by Luc Sante.