Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848–1907) was a French writer most famous for his Decadent novel À Rebours (Against the Grain) (1884). He began his writing career as a disciple of Émile Zola, who was the leading figure of Naturalism, the dominant French literary movement of the time. Huysmans broke with Naturalism after the publication of Against the Grain, in which he explored everything that was the opposite of Naturalism—artifice, fantasy, the “perverse,” the dark, and the grotesque—thus solidifying the Decadent movement’s style.
In his review of Against the Grain, Barbey d’Aurevilly wrote that after such a book, Huysmans could only choose between the barrel of a gun or the foot of the Cross, which meant that Huysmans would go down the path of debauchery, or else find religion. His prophecy was right, and ultimately Huysmans chose religion. Huysman’s later works are Catholic, as they documented his conversion and increasing interest in religion, and a turning away from the Decadent movement.