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The Oblate

Author: J.-K. Huysmans

Translator: Brendan King   Cover design: Marie Lane  

'One of Huysmans' objects in writing L'Oblat was to present a vivid but accurate account of the life of a French religious community at the beginning of the century. He wished, in fact, to emulate the Flemish sculptors who, in the figurines in Dijon Museum which are described in the book, had represented "the monastic humanity of their time, merry or melancholy, phlegmatic or fervent".'

Robert Baldick in The Life of J.-K. Huysmans

'The Oblate of 1903 is the last of his Durtal novels, and perhaps the least read of his works. But this new translation by Brendan King, for the publisher Dedalus, may help to put the novel back on the literary radar. Like all the novels featuring the writer Durtal, it is essentially autobiographical. Like Durtal, Huysmans had joined a Benedictine community as a lay associate who shared the liturgical life of the monastery, as an oblate. And like his alter ego, he had to abandon the project – in his case, at the monastery of St Martin in Ligugé, which features in The Oblate as the monastery of Val-des-Saints – when the monastery was dissolved following the passing of the law on associations by the anti-clerical government of 1901, which effectively banished the religious orders from France. What he had hoped to be a lifetime refuge turned into an intense monastic interlude of two years… Brendan King’s translation is so good as to read effortlessly, with the minor quibble that he calls children “kids”. The cover is striking: Zurbarán’s St Francis.'

Melanie McDonagh in The Catholic Herald

RRP: £10.99

No. of pages: 367

Publication date: 09.12.2022

Re-print date: 09.12.2022

ISBN numbers:
Printed book
978 1 912868 95 7
978 1 915568 06 9

Dedalus World English rights in this translation