August 23, 2017

Parisian Sketches by J. K. Huysmans

Parisian SketchesParisian Sketches is exactly what it says – a series of sketches of scenes Huysmans saw around Paris in the┬ánineteenth┬ácentury.

Each sketch is very well written – you really feel the emotions of the subjects, and feel the pressures and activities you’re reading about. These sketches don’t focus on the top of society – it’s what’s happening lower down. So we meet the girls at the dance trying to capture a soldier, the older women trying to leave before the whores arrive. Bus conductors, bakers, chestnut sellers and more.

It’s not just a series of sketches of people, the book is divided into subjects so we have “Parisian characters”, “Landscapes”, and (possibly my favourites, and certainly the most literary) “Fantasties and Forgotten corners”. Then it’s “Still Lifes”, and finally “Paraphrases”.

A great book to dip into.

The Dedalus Book of Russian Decadence: Perversity, Despair and Collapse

A fantastic and surreal book. Russian Decadence is a collection of 53 pieces of prose and poetry written by 7 Russian authors from the late 1800s.

The Dedalus Book of Russian Decadence

The featured authors are:

  • Leonid Andreyev
  • Alexander Blok
  • Valery Briusov
  • Alexander Kondratiev
  • Dmitry Merezhkovsky
  • Fyodor Sologub
  • and the only female Zinaida Gippius

Their works are focused on exploring the depths of the unconscious, and lead some really dark and fascinating areas.

The book is a very strange mix of stories, we visit a cult who are about the brought down in the middle of a revolution; we follow psychopaths around; there’s some sci-fi and explorations of parallel worlds. A weird exploration of excessive fascination with shadows, the intoxication of poisonous plants in an enchanted garden. Suicide obsessions and love in graveyards…

Truly a fascinating mental journey – I think I might have to read some more of the Dedalus collections of European decadence…