C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the Worlds Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917. H. R. Keller. The Readers Digest of Books.
Joris-Karl Huysmans (18481907)
En Route, a novel, by J. K. Huysman (1895), is translated by Kegan Paul. The author, whose literary career began in 1875, has devoted himself largely to what may be termed a kind of brutal mysticism. His works Marthe, Les Surs Vatard, and En Ménage, deal largely with themes that are sordid and scarred with hatred and ugliness, as if his mission were mainly to portray la bêtise de lhumanite. A morbid delight in what is corrupt leads to a corrupt mysticism. What is known as Satanism finds its extreme expression in his novel La-Bas. It is a surfeit of supernaturalism producing a mental nausea. En Route depicts the religious conversion of a young debauché of Paris, Dartal by name,a character who first appears in La-Bas. He is blasé, empty of motives of capacity for pleasure or endeavor. He takes to visiting the churches; feels a certain spell produced by the ritual and music; and at length, drawn into the monastic retreat of La Trappe, he becomes a convert to religion, and dwells with delight and much fine analysis on his experience of a kind of ecstasy of restraints, a frenzy of chastity. The story is autobiographic: the history of a soul. It abounds in passages of great brilliancy and beauty; and in some of the meditations on the inner meaning of the ritual, and the effect of the music of the church, his interpretations will meet with a very sympathetic response from many readers. His description of the Breviary is a splendid piece of writing. The book may be called a faithful account of the ritualistic disease, as it affects the French mind. It was not so much himself advancing into the unknown, as the unknown surrounding, penetrating, possessing him little by little. He closes suddenly with his entering into the night obscure of the mystics. It is inexpressible. Nothing can reveal the anguish necessary to pass through to enter this mystic knowledge. The soul of the writer seems to think aloud in the pages of his book; he frankly portrays his condition: too much writer to become a monk; too much monk to remain a writer. The reader remains in doubt, after all, as to whither the hero of the book is en route. En Route is a perfect guide-book to the churches of Paris, their exteriors and interiors, their clergy, and the daily life of each church.