The article deals with the topic of degeneration, thereby bringing back the name Max Nordau for reflection on the literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Nordau’s writings are not, however, the subject of autonomous reflection or ideological reconstruction here. The aim is to present a model of the attitude stigmatizing everything that the author of Entartung considered a disease. Branding literature and art as degenerate meets with the crisis of the late nineteenth century – partly envisaging this crisis, partly aggravating it. In this perspective – tracing the signs of degeneration not following Nordau, but referring to his diagnoses – I read selected works of H.G. Wells, Wacław Berent, Jerzy Żuławski, and Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. The theme of degeneration itself is differently functionalized and metaphorized in their writings. Common for them appears to be a pessimistic attitude to evolution as in fact involution, increasing morbidity, bestiality, misfortune.