route cover

En route (1895)


The Dial

May 16, 1897.


EN ROUTE. By J.-K. Huysmans. Translated from the French by C. Kegan Paul. New York: New Amsterdam Book Co.

It is only fair to the novel-reader to inform him, before saying anything further about "En Route," just translated from the French of M. J.-K. Huysmans, that the claim of the book to be classed among works of fiction is of the most tenuous sort. It is really a religious tract undisguised, being the second part of the trilogy begun with "Là-bas" and ended with "La Cathédrale." The purpose of the entire work is to analyze the soul of a sensualist, and to describe the process of his conversion from the life of corruption to the life (or living death) of spiritual contemplation. Mr. C. Kegan Paul, who has translated this book, takes it very seriously indeed, as his preface indicates; and there is no doubt that it is a powerful piece of analysis, however morbid and perverse in both conception and method. But the artificial, almost mechanical, ministry that it brings the mind diseased, is, to our way of thinking, about as far removed as anything well can be from a truly regenerative discipline. Church architecture, and sacred music, and the ritual of worship, and the regimen of the monastic life, are all vastly interesting subjects of study, but they are, after all, the trappings of religion, and not, as M. Huysmans would have us think, of its very essence. Upon all these subjects, the book displays much curious erudition, besides portraying a temperament that is an interesting object of study, but that is not, we feel bound to say, a normal type in any civilized community.