This book is the follow up to the previous volume On Beauty. Apparently beauty and ugliness are concepts that imply each other, and by ugliness we usually mean the opposite of beauty, so all we need do is define the first to understand the nature of the second. But the various manifestations of ugliness over the centuries are richer and more unpredictable than is commonly thought.
The anthological quotations and the extraordinary illustrations in this book lead us on a surprising journey among the nightmares, terrors, and loves of almost three thousand years, where acts of rejection go hand in hand with touching gestures of compassion, and the rejection of deformity is accompanied by decadent ecstasies over the most seductive violations of all classical canons.
Among demons, madmen, horrible enemies, and disquieting presences, among horrid abysses and deformities that verge on the sublime, among freaks and the living dead, we discover a vast and often unsuspected iconographic vein. So much so that, on gradually encountering in these pages the ugliness of nature, spiritual ugliness, asymmetry, disharmony, disfigurement, and the succession of things sordid, weak, vile, banal, random, arbitrary, coarse, repugnant, clumsy, horrendous, vacuous, nauseating, criminal, spectral, witchlike, satanic, repellent, disgusting, unpleasant, grotesque, abominable, odious, crude, foul, dirty, obscene, frightening, abject, monstrous, hair-raising, ugly, terrible, terrifying, revolting, repulsive, loathsome, fetid, ignoble, awkward, ghastly and indecent, the first foreign publisher to see this book exclaimed: 'How beautiful ugliness is!'