by Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam
Translated by Brian Stableford
Here, presented in English in a long-belated translation by Brian Stableford, is Isis, the first novel of the acclaimed author of Contes cruels, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam. Deserving to be reckoned as one of the foundation-stones of Decadent prose fiction, redolent with echoes of Byron and Poe, reconfigured in the Baudelairean manner, and flamboyant with Gautieresque elements, this book is a tour de force of extravagant implication and esthetic dexterity: a work of peculiar genius.
In its vaulting ambitions, its quirky mannerisms, its philosophical posturing and its lush descriptions, Isis is certainly a tale given to excess, but that excess is the essence of the endeavor, the wand of its enchantment.
About the Author
Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam (1838-1889) inherited delusions of aristocracy from his father, who claimed, on highly dubious grounds, to be entitled to call himself Villiers de l’Isle-Adam and spent much of his life searching for the non-existent buried treasure of the Knights of Malta. He carried the imposture with him throughout his life, taking it with him into absurdity and abject poverty, but it doubtless helped to shore up his conviction that he was also a literary genus—which was, in fact, true, although the disorganization of his life limited the manifestations of the genius in question, the most important of which are the dramas Le Nouveau Monde (1880), Axël (published posthumously in 1890), the short story collection Contes cruels (1883), and the novel L’Ève future (1886). As is not unusual with literary geniuses, he received almost no reward while he was alive—hence the abject poverty—but he became world famous almost as soon as he was dead.