En Route – JK Huysmans

En Route is the second part of Huysmans’ Durtal trilogy and describes his battle with his old desires (mainly his mistress, Florence), how the desires get worse whenever he begins to pray and how his life is changed by a retreat he undertakes in a Trappist monastery. Much of this works is obviously autobiographical and Huysmans is impressed with the simple, austere life led by the monks at the abbey. Being Trappists, they have undertaken a vow of silence, a life of prayer, work and penance which fills the lay reader with amazement. Their day starts at 2.00am. The topic of expiation is introduced, where nuns and monks spend a great deal of their time undergoing physical deprivation for the sake of sinners in the world at large. The deprivations of various saints are discussed at length, much of which would no doubt be classified as sado-masochism by modern psychology with its all encompassing explanation for all and everything.