PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Edited by: Brendan King
Dedalus have been steadily printing the novels of the astonishing 19th-century French novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans and as a bonus have reissued Robert Baldick's classic biography, one of the most elegant, stimulating and moving of all literary biographies, right up there with Leon Edel's James and George Painter's Proust, revised and annotated by Brendan King. The life and the work are equally compelling.
Huysmans was an obsessive smoker and convert to Rome. He knew everyone-Degas,Verlaine,Zola. He wrote about his own sins, about God, the Devil, art and women. His mistress died in an insane asylum and he died of cancer. One could say his life followed the usual lines.
The Life of J.-K. Huysmans speaks for itself –in glorious detail, you have a compelling narrative of his life and work in all its various phases –from Naturalism of the 1870s to the Decadence of the 1880s, and from the occult vogue of the 1890s to the Catholic Revival of the turn of the century.
Robert Baldick's tripartite division of Huysmans's writing career into Naturalist, Decadent and Catholic stages has seemed irresistibly sensible to subsequent critics. Baldick's landmark biography, which first appeared in 1955 and has now been reissued in paperback by those stalwarts of the Decadent movement, Dedalus. This is a timely project, next year being the centenary of Huysmans's death, and the amendments and additions of the Huysmans scholar Brendan King, will be of genuine interest to those in search of a Life. Baldick's biography has not been superseded in subsequent decades by English or French accounts. King does a fine job, 'mindful' as he is' of treading a path between the faithful adherence to the original text and the need to produce a work that took new research into account and was therefore relevant to present day scholars'.
Robert Baldick’s The Life of J.K. Huysmans (Dedalus) admirably demystifies the French art critic and novelist (who is still misunderstood in many Catholic circles) by showing how it was good old repentance that turned him away from the decadent naturalism of his youth and threw him on the merciful intercessions of Our Lady. “My life drags on,” he wrote a friend when he was months away from death, “with influenza added to the rest. I’m not sleeping or eating, but just manufacturing abscesses to the accompaniment of never-ending toothache. Anyone who hadn’t the faith…would have blown his brains out long ago. Well, I am not unhappy. The day I said fiat, God gave me incredible strength of will and wonderful peace of mind. I do not wish to be cured, but to continue to be purified so that Our Lady may take me above. My dream would be for God to take me with Him like the good thief at Easter, but, alas, I am unworthy of that. Je vous embrasse.”