En route (novel)
En route is a novel by the French writer Joris-Karl Huysmans and was first published in 1895. It is the second of Huysmans' books to feature the character Durtal, a thinly disguised portrait of the author himself. Durtal had already appeared in Là-bas, investigating Satanism. En route and the two subsequent two novels, La cathédrale and L'oblat, trace his conversion to Catholicism, an experience which reflects the author's own. As Huysmans explained:
"The plot of the novel is as simple as it could be. I've taken the principal character of Là-Bas, Durtal, had him converted and sent him to a Trappist monastery. In studying his conversion, I've tried to trace the progress of a soul surprised by the gift of grace, and developing in an ecclesiastical atmosphere, to the accompaniment of mystical literature, liturgy, and plainchant, against a background of all that admirable art which the Church has created". (quoted in Baldick p.288)
The novel was published by Tresse et Stock on February 23, 1895. Its literary qualities were generally appreciated at once (Paul Valéry was especially enthusiastic) but many expressed doubts as to the sincerity of Huysmans' religious conversion until the author was defended at a public lecture by Abbé Mugnier. En route was a commercial success and rapidly went through several editions. It is also notable for being one of the texts requested by Oscar Wilde during his incarceration at Reading Gaol.
- Robert Baldick The Life of J.-K. Huysmans (OUP, 1955; revised by Brendan King, Dedalus, 2006)
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