The Conflict over Food in the Work of J.-K. Huysmans

The work of J.-K. Huysmans is marked by a conflict over food that the author is able to solve only through the sacrament of the Eucharist. On the one hand eating is a savage, sadistic, neurotic act, an expression of mindless consumption; on the other it appears as the fraternal sharing of nourishment and ideas with fellow beings. Huysmans's characters, stand-ins for himself, oscillate between these contrary attitudes. In En route the character Durtal, through his view of the Eucharist as an act of cannibalism on a cosmic scale, is finally able to achieve a more natural attitude toward food and eating. The devoured God of the Eucharist leaves nothing more to be desired, and ordinary food loses its power of fascination; it can henceforth be accepted naturally, without obsessive concern. Ironically, it is just this new, relaxed attitude toward food that poses a new threat to the author in the form of self-satisfaction. (EDR)

Rossmann, Edward
Volume 1973-1974 Fall-Winter; 2(1-2): 61-67.