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Thread: Please recommend books dealing with the aesthetics of decadence.

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    Please recommend books dealing with the aesthetics of decadence.

    Outside of the French post-naturalists like Huysmans et al, does anyone have any recommendations within the context of the topic? I've been reading some of Huysmans' work, and have found aspects of it very interesting. There's a certain quality there I want to chase, so hopefully some of you can throw me some good leads.

    Thanks!

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    Kafkaesque johann cruyff's Avatar
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    Well,there's a lot of decadence in Decameron - not sure if that's what you're looking for though.
    Noću, u intimnom, poluglasnom razgovoru sa samim sobom, nikako ne mogu zapravo logički opravdati zašto se u posljednje vrijeme toliko uzrujavam zbog ljudske gluposti.

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    Registered User lshomie's Avatar
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    Outside of the obvious French poetry related to that theme (Baudelaire for example), I couldn't think of any leads.
    You might want to check out this wikipedia page on the Decadent Movement in literature.
    Last edited by lshomie; 03-16-2008 at 08:05 AM.

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    Tu le connais, lecteur... Kafka's Crow's Avatar
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    The Blind Owl

    I am reading The Blind Owl, a novella by Sadeq Hedayat. Written in Persian in 1930s The Blind Owl deals with the universal themes of death, decay and corruption of the flesh. A very dark book. Young people were advised not to read it as it led to a few suicides. The mother of all decadence literature has to be Chants de Maldoror by Comte de Lautreamont. Everybody talks about Fleurs de Mal but Lautreamont's Chants are in a league of their own. I have a brand new copy of La Bas waiting to be read. I would strongly recommend The Blind Owl and les Chants de Maldoror. Read The Blind Owl here:

    http://www.angelfire.com/rnb/bashiri.../blindowl.html
    "The farther he goes the more good it does me. I don’t want philosophies, tracts, dogmas, creeds, ways out, truths, answers, nothing from the bargain basement. He is the most courageous, remorseless writer going and the more he grinds my nose in the sh1t the more I am grateful to him..."
    -- Harold Pinter on Samuel Beckett

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    Loved the Chants de Maldoror as well...

    Other decadent artists (even though I'm not very fond of the term - lots of the Symbolists are also considered to be decadents, aren't they? so it doesn't seem to be very precise...) are Octave Mirbeau (his Jardin des Supplices is an astonishing read) and Jules Laforgue!! and I think Mallarmé can also be seen as a decadent... like Maeterlinck, in Belgium.

    And why not have a look at British decadent authors: Oscar Wilde, or Meredith or Swinburne, no?

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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Baudelaire, certainly. Poe. Rimbaud. Verlaine. Celine. Nerval, perhaps. Klossowski. Oscar Wilde. Perhaps Walter Pater, Paul Valery, and Mallarme. What exact aspects of "decadence" are you intrigued by?
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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Perhaps Lolita by Nabokov.

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    post WW1 books?

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    Quote Originally Posted by stlukesguild View Post
    Baudelaire, certainly. Poe. Rimbaud. Verlaine. Celine. Nerval, perhaps. Klossowski. Oscar Wilde. Perhaps Walter Pater, Paul Valery, and Mallarme. What exact aspects of "decadence" are you intrigued by?
    Well, just generally speaking, I'm interested in decadence as an aesthetic concept vs a moral one. Decadence is such a pejorative word, the way it is usually used, that I found that idea, as discussed in the introduction to Against the Grain to be quite interesting. The concept of decadence, as examined in the introduction by Havelock Ellis to Against the Grain, as a situation where the value of the whole was subsumed by the value of the parts; ie the novel by the chapter, the chapter by the passage, the passage by the paragraph, the paragraph by the line, the line by the word etc. So I guess a lot of stuff could fall under that category, a lot of postmodern writing at least. But I guess I'm looking for stuff in which decadence, in the particular definition I just gave, is juxtaposed against a more classical view of aesthetics/nature. But ideally less postmodern stuff, and more "older" stuff, that could be viewed as a precursor to that quality of life, where it seems the value of the parts has overtaken the value of the whole.

    But some great suggestions so far. Lost of stuff to get me started.
    Last edited by capek; 03-16-2008 at 08:33 PM.

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    Registered User Etienne's Avatar
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    The Russia symbolists in general.
    Et l'unique cordeau des trompettes marines

    Apollinaire, Le chantre

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