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JORIS KARL HUYSMANS (1848–1907)

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Originally appearing in Volume V14, Page 23 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JORIS KARL HUYSMANS (1848–1907), French novelist, was born at Paris on the 5th of February 1848. He belonged to a family of artists of Dutch extraction; he entered the ministry of the interior, and was pensioned after thirty years' service. His earliest venture in literature, Le Drageoir a epices (1874), contained stories and short prose poems showing the influence of Baudelaire. Marche (1876), the life of a courtesan, was published in Brussels, and Huysmans contributed a story, " Sac au dos," to Les Soirees de Medan, the collection of stories of the Franco-German war published by Zola. He then produced a series of novels of everyday life, including Les Sceurs L'atard (1879), En Menage (1881), and A vau-l'eau (1882), in which he outdid Zola in minute and uncompromising realism. He was influenced, however, more directly by Flaubert and the brothers de Goncourt than by Zola. In L'Art moderne (1883) he gave a careful study of impressionism and in Certains (1889) a series of studies of contemporary artists. A Rebours (1884), the history of the morbid tastes of a decadent aristocrat, des Esseintes, created a literary sensation, its caricature of literary and artistic symbolism covering much of the real beliefs of the leaders of the aesthetic revolt. In Ld-Bas Huysmans's most characteristic hero, Durtal, makes his appearance. Durtal is occupied in writing the life of Gilles de Rais; the insight he gains into Satanism is supplemented by modern Parisian students of the black art; but already there are signs of a leaning to religion in the sympathetic figures of the religious bell-ringer of Saint Sulpice and his wife. En Route (1895) relates the strange conversion of Durtal to mysticism and catholicism in his retreat to La Trappe. In La Cathedrale (1898), Huysmans's symbolistic interpretation of the cathedral of Chartres, he develops his enthusiasm for the purity of Catholic ritual. The life of Sainte Lydwine de Schiedam (19o1), an exposition of the value of suffering, gives further proof of his conversion; and L'Oblat (1903) describes Durtal's retreat to the Val des Saints, where he is attached as an oblate to a Benedictine monastery. Huysmans was nominated by Edmond de Goncourt as a member of the Academie des Goncourt. He died as a devout Catholic, after a long illness of cancer in the palate on the 13th of May 1907. Before his death he destroyed his unpublished MSS. His last book was Les Foules de Lourdes (1906). See Arthur Symons, Studies in two Literatures (1897) and The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899); Jean Lionnet in L'Evolution des idees (1903); Eugene Gilbert in France et Belgique (1905); J. Sargeret in Les Grands convertis (1906).
End of Article: JORIS KARL HUYSMANS (1848–1907)
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