Thursday, October 21, 2010
For those who read the book A rebours (Against the Grain or Against Nature, 1884, the book, which Oscar Wilde loved) by Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848–1907).
With the aid of some quotes from the book I try to prove that the main character of the novel -- Des Esseintes “a slender, nervous young man of thirty, with hollow cheeks, cold, steel-blue eyes, a straight, thin nose and delicate hands” -- is a vampire or something of the kind as a person or entity that definitely lives a nocturnal life.
He lives a life of a nocturnal thing, after “a deep silence wrapped the little house that lay asleep in the darkness.” His first meal he has in the evening:
“At five o’clock in winter, after dusk had closed in, he ate an abstemious breakfast of two boiled eggs, toast and tea; then came dinner at eleven; he used to drink coffee, sometimes tea or wine, during the night, and finally played with a bit of supper about five in the morning, before turning in.”
The windows are designed in some odd way in order that the daylight could not penetrate the rooms freely:
“The dining-room in question resembled a ship’s cabin with its wooden ceiling of arched beams, its bulkheads and flooring of pitch-pine, its tiny window-opening cut through the woodwork as a porthole is in a vessel’s side.
Like those Japanese boxes that fit one inside the other, this room was inserted within a larger one,--the real dining-room as designed by the architect.
This latter apartment was provided with two windows; one of these was now invisible, being hidden by the bulkhead or partition wall, which could however be dropped by touching a spring, so that fresh air might be admitted to circulate freely around and within the pitch-pine enclosure; the other was visible, being situated right opposite the porthole contrived in the woodwork, but was masked in a peculiar way, a large aquarium filling in the whole space intervening between the porthole and the real window in the real house-wall. Thus the daylight that penetrated into the cabin had first to pass through the outer window, the panes of which had been replaced by a single sheet of plain mirror glass, then through the water and last of all through the glazing of the porthole, which was permanently fixed in its place.
At the hour when the steaming samovar stood on the table, the moment when in Autumn the sun would be setting in the west, the water in the aquarium, dull and opaque by daylight, would redden and throw out fiery flashes as if from a glowing furnace over the light-coloured walls.”
Even the moonlight cannot penetrate the rooms unless through the bottle-glass:
“Outside the snow was falling. In the lamplight, ice arabesques glittered on the dark windows and the hoar-frost sparkled like crystals of sugar on the bottle-glass panes speckled with gold.”
He hates how nature looks by daylight:
“As he used to say, Nature has had her day; she has definitely and finally tired out by the sickening monotony of her landscapes and skyscapes the patience of refined temperaments. When all is said and done, what a narrow, vulgar affair it all is, like a petty shopkeeper selling one article of goods to the exclusion of all others; what a tiresome store of green fields and leafy trees, what a wearisome commonplace collection of mountains and seas!”
which is absolutely wrong, if you ask me.
Thus, we can see that the hero’s habits, loathings and likings look much like a vampire’s.
If a vampire, then a vampire-aesthete:
“…a single book, bound in sea-green morocco, the Adventures of Arthur Gordon Pym, specially printed for his behoof on pure linen-laid paper, hand picked, bearing a sea-gull for water mark.”
Des Esseintes’ conception of sunlight, his feelings about the sun, or maybe Huysmans’: “As though stirred by furious pokers, the sun showed like a kiln-hole, darting a light almost white-hot, burning one’s face.”
(from AGAINST THE GRAIN by JORIS-KARL HUYSMANS Tr. John Howard)
Vampires are different. Some of the known or renowned ones I like, some I dislike. To Vampire Des Esseintes, in case if he is such, I feel indifferent, for really, Author did not do much in his book to make us love his main character.