PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Huysmans's protagonist here, M Jean Folantin, is an ageing bachelor employed at the Ministry of the Interior... Wandering the streets of Paris, wallowing in antipathy towards the encroaching Americanization of European manners and modernizing construction works that are ruining his once-familiar city, he seeks refuge in taprooms and chop-houses, hoping only for for the fleeting satisfaction offered by a savoury meal. Alas, in attempting to achieve even this modest goal he is repeatedly thwarted.
...but his condemnation of the world around him are ultimately comic and inspiriting, and are given piquancy by Brendan King's new translation, which preserves the sheer delectability of the language even when it's describing something disgusting. That, along with King's introduction, notes, with their intelligence on everything from lead oxide used to adulterate nineteenth-century wines to the ubiquity of syphilis in the French capital, makes A Vau -l'eau a good place in which to consort with Huysmans's miserable creations.