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In the end, this volume should be read a s a collection of love stories, Above all, they are tales of love, not the love with which so many stories end – the love of fidelity, kindness and fertility – but the other side of love, its cruelty, sterility and duplicity. In a way, the decadents did accept Nordau's idea of the artist as monster. But in nature, the glory and panacea of romanticism, they found nothing. Theirs is an aesthetic that disavows the natural and with it the body. The truly beautiful body is dead, because it is empty. Decadent work is always morbid, but its attraction to death is through art. What they refused was the condemnation of that monster. And yet despite the decadent celebration of artifice, these stories record art's failure in the struggle against natural horror. Nature fights back and wins, and decadent writing remains a remarkable account of that failure."
Author: Asti Hustvedt

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