The Cathedral (Huysmans novel)  

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La Cathédrale (The Cathedral) is a novel by the French writer Joris-Karl Huysmans, first published in 1898. It is the third of Huysmans' books to feature the character Durtal, a thinly disguised portrait of the author himself. Durtal had already appeared in Là-Bas and En route, which had recounted his conversion to Catholicism, an experience which reflects the author's own. La Cathédrale continues the story as, after his retreat at a Trappist monastery, Durtal moves to the city of Chartres, famous for its cathedral. The cathedral provides the focus of the novel - which has very little plot - and Huysmans describes the building in encyclopaedic detail, so much so that the novel was often used as a guidebook by tourists. Fourteen extracts from La cathédrale were serialised by the magazine Echo de Paris, beginning on October 27, 1897, and the entire novel first appeared in book form in January, 1898. In spite of controversy (focussed on the sincerity of the author's religious beliefs) it was the most commercially successful of Huysmans' works during his lifetime, allowing the author to retire from his job as a civil servant with the royalties.


  • Robert Baldick The Life of J.-K. Huysmans (OUP, 1955; revised by Brendan King, Dedalus, 2006)

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