By Joris-Karl Huysmans. Introduction and translation by Justin Vicari.
A mordantly satiric and cruel account of bourgeois greedOriginally published in book form in French in 1887, Joris-Karl Huysmans' A Dilemma remains a particularly nasty little tale, a mordantly satiric and cruel account of bourgeois greed and manipulation that holds up as clear a mirror to today's neoliberalist times as it did to the French fin-de-siècle. Written smack in-between Huysmans' most famous works—his 1881 Against Nature, which came to define the Decadent movement, and his 1891 exploration of Satanism, Down There—A Dilemma presents some of Huysmans' most memorable characters, including Madame Champagne, the self-appointed Parisian protector of women in need, and the carnal would-be sophisticate notary Le Ponsart, who wages a war of words with the bereft pregnant mistress of his deceased grandson with devastating consequences. In its unflinching portrayal of how authoritarian language can be used and abused as a weapon, this novella stands as Huysmans' indictment of the underlying crime of the novel itself: a language apparatus employed to maintain the appetites of the ruling class.
Earning a wage through a career in the French civil service, Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848–1907) quietly explored the extremes of human nature and artifice through a series of books that influenced a number of different literary movements: from the grey and grimy Naturalism of books like Marthe and Downstream to the cornerstones of the Decadent movement, Against Nature and the Satanist classic Down There, the dream-ridden Surrealist favorite, Becalmed, and his Catholic novels, The Cathedral and The Oblate.