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Joris Karl Huysmans

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A French novelist; born in Paris, 5 February, 1848; died 12 May, 1907. He studied at the Lycee Saint-Louis. At the age of twenty, he obtained a post in the Ministry of the Interior and remained there until 1897, except during the Franco-Prussian war, when he served under the flag. His loyal services won him the esteem of his superiors and the cross of the Legion of Honour. For thirty years he carried on the double duties of his administrative position and his literary profession. He was one of the ten founders of the Goncourt Academy, to the presidency of which he was elected in 1900. His first books, which must be mentioned here, belonged to the most realistic school of literature and professed to show all that is most base and vile in humanity. In 1895 he went to spend a week at the Trappist monastery of Issigny and was there deeply impressed by the monastic life . "En Route" (1895) shows the change that then took place in his life. Not long after he made open profession of Catholicism, and, having resigned his post in the Ministry of the Interior, retired to Ligugé and took up his abode in a house near the Benedictine monastery. After the expulsion of the monks, he returned to Paris, where he died in 1907. During the last twelve years of his life he fought indefatigably for his faith, whose sincerity is proved by his works. He wrote: "L'Oblat" (1903); "De Tout" (1901); "Sainte Lydwine de Schiedam" (1899); "La Bièvre et Saint Séverin" (1898); "La Cathédrale" (1898); "Les Foules de Lourdes" (1905), a reply to Zola's famous novel; "Trois Eglises et Trois Primitifs" (1904). He was deeply interested in the religious art of the Middle Ages and displayed a great fondness for mysticism. Both before and after his conversion he was a realist. All his art consisted in rendering clearly details that he had seen and noted down. His pictures of poor people, his sketches of old Paris and particularly of Bièvre, as well as his descriptions of big crowds and scenes at Lourdes, are most vivid and picturesque. Of Dutch origin, he shows in his works the temperament of a great colourist and suggests the paintings by Rembrandt and Rubens. Never did a man have clearer power of vision and never did one take more pleasure in looking and in seeing. One may therefore understand the torture that he felt when during the last days of his life he was afflicted with an affection of the eyes and it became necessary to sew his eyelids shut. In his piety he believed that these eyes, with which he had seen so many beautiful things and through which he had received so much pleasure, were taken from him by way of enforcing penitence.

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