Lourdes entre monstres et merveilles : Les pèlerinages de Zola et Huysmans

Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Center for Languages Cultures and Regional Studies, Foreign Languages

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Les Lettres Romanes

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More than ten years separate Zola and Huysmans’ trips to Lourdes. One would expect the atheist’s novel to strikingly differ from the convert’s account, but on the contrary, both texts are eerily similar. Not only had Huysmans decided to go back to the naturalist style of writing, the better to fight the accusations of the now defunct master, but his narrative follows in the footsteps of Zola’s. The same highlights of the pilgrimage, such as the immersion of the sick in the pools or the procession of the holy sacrament, become some of the high points of both texts. Both authors are overtaken by Lourdes’ discursive vortex, and their accounts and impression of the pilgrimage constantly vacillate between visions of the Middle Ages and Modernity, religion and science, faith and fairs. At the focal point of these discourses are the deformed sick, referred to as monsters. Their fate and position within the pilgrimage embody not only the ambiguities of Lourdes, but also those of a disenchanted era.

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