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Descaves was born in Paris. A disciple of Joris-Karl Huysmans and the Goncourt brothers, his novels Le Calvaire d'Héloïse Pajadou (1883) and Une vieille rate (1883) followed strongly the naturalism movement.
The anti-military novel, Sous-Offs (1889) provoked a scandal. Though acquitted of charges of offending the army and public morality, he was stripped of his military rank.
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