Oh, how I wish I had been first to connect Huysmans’ Against Nature with virtual reality:

Thus, without stirring, he enjoyed the rapid motions of a long sea voyage. The pleasure of travel, which only exists as a matter of fact in retrospect and seldom in the present, at the instant when it is being experienced, he could fully relish at his ease, without the necessity of fatigue or confusion, here in this cabin whose studied disorder, whose transitory appearance and whose seemingly temporary furnishings corresponded so well with the briefness of the time he spent there on his meals, and contrasted so perfectly with his study, a well-arranged, well-furnished room where everything betokened a retired, orderly existence.

Movement, after all, seemed futile to him. He felt that imagination could easily be substituted for the vulgar realities of things. It was possible, in his opinion, to gratify the most extravagant, absurd desires by a subtle subterfuge, by a slight modification of the object of one’s wishes. Every epicure nowadays enjoys, in restaurants celebrated for the excellence of their cellars, wines of capital taste manufactured from inferior brands treated by Pasteur‘s method. For they have the same aroma, the same color, the same bouquet as the rare wines of which they are an imitation, and consequently the pleasure experienced in sipping them is identical. The originals, moreover, are usually unprocurable, for love or money.

Transposing this insidious deviation, this adroit deceit into the realm of the intellect, there was not the shadow of a doubt that fanciful delights resembling the true in every detail, could be enjoyed. One could revel, for instance, in long explorations while near one’s own fireside, stimulating the restive or sluggish mind, if need be, by reading some suggestive narrative of travel in distant lands. One could enjoy the beneficent results of a sea bath, too, even in Paris. All that is necessary is to visit the Vigier baths situated in a boat on the Seine, far from the shore.

Actually, only half of the book is taken with flights of the imagination, loves, meetings, and disappointments that are more meaningful to the mind that in reality. It’s an unflattering picture of an interal life whose isolation leads to addiction and whose passivity leads to illness. Hardly flattering (love that degeneration). But for all the dreams and daydreams, so much of the book is literary commentary. Reminds me a little of Gottfried’s Tristan.

Advertisements