“Ministry of Interior Life”

I’ve been reading about the Decadent movement as background research. Today, I learned something that made my day in the introduction of the English translation of Huysmans’ A Rebours (Against Nature).

Huysmans wrote most of his novels while sitting at his desk at his day job at the French Ministry of Interior, often using official Ministry letter paper to save money. When he retired, he stole a bunch of stationery on his way out and re-titled the letterhead “Ministry of Interior Life”.

Now, the pun works perfectly in English, but “Ministère de l’Intérieur” would not morph as neatly into “Ministère de la Vie Intérieure”, so I’d need to check the original source to find out exactly what he’s supposed to have scribbled.

But in any case the anecdote is so poetic it hardly matters whether it’s true or not.