The nineteenth century iteration of this — the nostalgia found in the French decadent novels of writers like Joris-Karl Huysmans and Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam — links nostalgia, specifically, to a fear of modern mechanization: a world where, say, mass-produced robots can imitate women or where the essence of a human being can (as in one passage in Husymans’ En Rade) be transformed into edible whipped cream. The world they long for is a world, where people, where things, where objets d’art are all irreducible, irreproducible. They locate it in the Medieval era; perhaps it never existed there either. But it is a world I long for, as well.
The essence of Huysmans is found in the trilogy composed of La Bas, En Route, and La Cathedrale, which relates his autobiographical counterpart Durtal’s journey to faith (which will culminate in L’Oblat, in which he becomes a Benedictine oblate, as Huysmans himself did).