One of the first French novels to deal with prostitution in Paris. First published in 1876, Marthe was an important landmark in J.-K. Huysmans's literary career: it was the 28-year old writer's first excursion into the novel form and propelled him into the growing ranks of the Naturalist movement, then beginning to take shape under Zola's direction. Marthe was one of the first French novels to tackle head-on the subject of prostitution, a theme that was to become a central preoccupation in the work of many novelists, painters and poets. Set in and around the demi-monde of the Parisian music hall, it centres on a would-be actress, Marthe, who works in one of the lowest dives in Paris, and tells the story of her brief and ultimately doomed relationship with Léo, a romantic searching for something to take the place of his lost illusions. Marthe will appeal to admirers of French Naturalism and the novels of Zola. Huysmans is particularly good in evoking the Paris of his days.