Like symbolism, decadence puts forth the idea that the function of literature is to evoke impressions and 'correspondences', rather than to realistically depict the world... The decadent aestheticized decay and took pleasure in perversity. In decadent literature, sickness is preferable to health, not only because sickness was regarded as more interesting, but because sickness was construed as subversive, as a threat to the very fabric of society. By embracing the marginal, the unhealthy and the deviant, the decadents attacked bourgeois life, which they perceived as the chief enemy of art.
Decadent cooks go one step further and make sculptures of the food itself. If life is to be spent in pursuit of the extravagant, the extreme, the grotesque, the bizarre, then one's diet should reflect the fact. Life, meals, everything must be as artificial as possible - in fact works of art. So why not begin by eating a few statues?
The conventional use of words and of narrative structure is deliberately subverted in decadent fiction; language deviates from the established norms in an attempt to reproduce pathology on a textual level. With its emphasis on aberration and artifice, the decadents' approach to the language of fiction frequently leans towards the baroque and the obscure.
Adornment, exoticism, affectation are all willed decadent strategies meant to pervert the texts they made. Decadent texts often live in their descriptive excursions, in their evocation of dreams, mysterious places and states of mind, in their excess of words, not events. The surface of the texts, the sound of the words, point to themselves as manufactured, as illusion. The decadents attempted to create texts that announced themselves as artifice.
It is precisely, if paradoxically, because reversal is in the service of repetition (so as to ensure, alongside its companion strategies, a dizzying proliferation of citations) that it gains a subversive power rather than remain a mere dependent (and thus conservative) form of social discourse. Reversal plays a double role in this novel (MONSIEUR VENUS), for it is not only a formal strategy bearing on citation, but itself a citation as well; one more cliché mobilized from the fin-de-siecle reserve.
In this image (watching sensual murder through a peephole) Lorrain embodies the criminal delight of decadent art. The watcher who records the crimes (both the artist and consumer of art) is constructed as marginal, powerless to act, and so exculpated from action, passive subject of a complex pleasure, condemning and yet enjoying suffering imposed on others, and condemning himself for his own enjoyment. In this masochistic celebration of disempowerment, the sharpest pleasure recorded is that of the death of some important part of humanity. The dignity of human life is the ultimate victim of Lorrain's art, thrown away on a welter of delighted self-disgust.