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The Cathedral

Joris-Karl Huysmans

Book Overview: 

It is the third of Huysmans' books to feature the character Durtal, a thinly disguised portrait of the author. He had already featured the character of Durtal in Là-bas and En route, which recounted his conversion to Catholicism. La Cathédrale continues the story. After his retreat at a Trappist monastery, Durtal moves to the city of Chartres, renowned for its cathedral. Huysmans describes the building in great detail.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Be watchful and pray;' well, I am more than willing, but the remedy is ineffectual, for aridity and outside influences deprive it of its efficacy!

"As for outside suggestions—they never seem to come to me but in prayer. It is enough that I kneel down and try to collect my thoughts, they are at once dissipated. The mere purpose of prayer is like a stone flung into a pool; everything is stirred up and comes to the top!

"And people who have not habits of religious practice fancy that there is nothing easier than prayer. I should like to see them try. They could then bear witness that profane imaginings, which leave them in peace at all other times, always surge up unexpectedly, during prayer.

"Besides, what use is therein disputing the fact? Merely looking at a sleeping vice is enough to wake it."

And his thoughts went back to that warm crypt. "Yes, no doubt, like all the buildings of the Romanesque period, i. . . Read More