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Gustave Guiches


Originally published in 1888, The Modesty of Sodom, the outrageous text for which Gustave Guiches (1860-1935) is most remembered, is here presented for the first time in English, in a wonderful translation by Brian Stableford. Still as avant-garde as ever, The Modesty of Sodom is one of the purest and most strident exercises of fin-de-siècle Decadent art. As well as employing colorful exotic terms, the author invents and improvises new ones freely, and the story contains several words found nowhere else, whose meanings have to be inferred from context or etymological analogies. The story is a straight-faced black comedy, as the majority of exercises in literary decadence are, and its humor is appropriately scathing in its aggressive but amused assault on moral hypocrisy; it is very much a product of its time, but one which, alas, has by no means lost all its relevance in the historical interim. In conjunction to the principal text, a second, “The Guardian Shades” is also here presented, again, in its first English language translation.

About the Author

Gustave Guiches (1860-1935) was a native of the French department of the Lot. After passing the final examinations entitling him to practice law in 1880 he decided instead to dedicate himself to literature. Like many pillars of the nascent Decadent Movement, he frequented Charles Buet’s salon, made useful acquaintances there, and soon began to publish poems and short stories in periodicals. Though best remembered for his 1888 novella La Pudeur de Sodome, he wrote numerous other works, including Céleste Prudhomat (1886), and Au fil de la vie (1895).