J.-K. Huysmans by Anna Meunier: paradoxical autobiography
Echo des Etudes Romanes
J.-K. Huysmans par Anna Meunier : Une autobiographie paradoxale
The autobiographical question accompanies the literary work by Huysmans. Not only, his novellas like Sac au dos and his novels such as Oblat match with the Huysmans's experience of the 1870 war between France and Germany , but he also defends the principle of writing about reality and about life in accordance with naturalist aesthetics. It is perhaps this which explains why he wrote in 1885 an autobiography signed Anna Meunier in the review Les Hommes d'aujourd'hui in which had already appeared
... two biographical notes on Léon Hennique and Lucien Descaves. But what strikes hardest is that this autobiography is rather curious. Indeed, it seems to call into question three processes which we will clarify in this article. Initially, this autobiography adopts the form of an interview between Huysmans and his partner Anna Meunier who plays here the part of a journalist coming to interview him. This interview creates an effect of irony within the autobiography because of the shift between the questions of the journalist and the answers of Huysmans. Then, the intertextuality is initiated in the interview by means of the confrontation of the literary universe of Huysmans with that of the other writers of the 19th century. This makes him similar to Baudelaire and Edmont de Goncourt and differentiates him from Zola and Flaubert. Lastly, the autobiography takes the form of an invention of oneself close to autofiction. Indeed, Huysmans plays with time which escapes chronology, omits important biographical elements like those relating to his childhood and his relations with women whereas conversely it amplifies the innovation and the success of his texts like A Rebours, which makes the center of his work. Our analysis will be based on the works of Philippe Lejeune on the autobiography, Gérard Genette on the paratext and the intertexuality and of Serge Douvrovski on the autofiction.