The text isn't in PG yet, so I found a version at Huysmans.org. It was full of scanning errors, which I've corrected against the print version. In fact, that had some typos, which I've corrected too. I've added pictures and a TOC.
This novel can be read on its own as an account of a religious conversion in late 19th century France. It is the first of Huysman's Catholic novels, hence is less obviously decadent than its predecessors.
It continues the story of Durtal from 'La Bas' (already uploaded). Disgusted by the black mass, and saddened by the death of his two closest friends, Durtal has finished his biography of Gilles de Rais and is having an existential crisis; wondering how to fill the void that his life has become. Gradually, he is drawn toward religion, because of his love for sacred art, plainchant and the writings of the mystic saints. However, he hesitates to make the final leap of faith. Eventually, he makes a retreat to a Trappist monastery, confesses and is converted. He promptly undergoes a dark night of the soul (to use the terminology of St John of the Cross) and, on returning to Paris, wonders how he is to progress in the religious life.
The novel may appeal to those interested in mysticism, church art and architecture, or church music. There are long descriptive passages about these, plus some brief and lyrical descriptions of nature. It prefigures many themes later found in Sartre's novels ( - being an outsider, alienation etc). Also the coverage of the conversion process and mysticism bears comparison with William James's 'Varieties of Religious Experience'.
The translation is by Charles Kegan Paul, an Anglican clergyman who left the church to found a publishing house and later converted to Catholicism. It is the same translation as the current Daedalus edition, which attributes it to W Fleming (presumably a pseudonym). I have included Kegan Paul's lengthy introduction, but moved it to the end of the text.
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