5 August 15 | Kaija Straumanis

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Christopher Iacono on A Dilemma by Joris-Karl Hyusmans, translated by Justin Vicari, and out from Wakefield Press.

(We love you, Wakefield!!!)

Here’s the beginning of Chris’s piece:

In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the respective translated edition), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the shell of a tortoise. The tortoise, of course, is defenseless to Esseintes, who attaches so many gems that the creature cannot move. Eventually, their weight causes the tortoise to die, and the scene shows how the rich can use their wealth to crush the poor.

In A Dilemma, which was first serialized soon after the publication of À rebours in 1884, Huysmans once again gives us a satirical look at this cruel power. This time, however, the victim is not an animal but a poor, unmarried, pregnant woman named Sophie, the unlucky mistress of Jules—unlucky because Jules died without marrying her or leaving behind a will. Now, Jules’s father (Monsieur Lambois) and grandfather (Maître Le Ponsart) will do anything to protect their fortune and reputation from this woman, who only asked them for a little money just to get by.

For the rest of the review, go here.


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