The Oblate  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

L'Oblat (The Oblate) is the last novel by the French writer Joris-Karl Huysmans, first published in 1903. It is the final book in Huysmans' cycle of four novels featuring the character Durtal, a thinly disguised portrait of the author himself. Durtal had already appeared in Là-Bas, En route and La cathédrale, which traced his (and the author's) conversion to Catholicism.

In L'Oblat, Durtal becomes an oblate, reflecting Huysmans' own experiences in the religious community at Ligugé. Like many of Huysmans' other novels, it has little plot. The author uses the book to examine the Christian liturgy, express his opinions about the state of Catholicism in contemporary France and explore the question of suffering (one notable passage describes the Garden of Gethsemane).


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

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