Bruges-la-Morte by Georges Rodenbach. Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review 's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge and remind and warn you that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.
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There is something very familiar about this story: a middle-aged widower, Hugues Viane, moves to Bruges as it is the town most suited to his melancholy. He desperately misses his wife; and in the cloistral, muffled, moribund city of Bruges he finds the perfect analogue for his grief.
And then one day he sees a woman in the street who appears to be the exact double of his dead wife. He obsesses about her, pursues her, and eventually begins a relationship with her. But it turns out that she is not the reincarnation of his wife The chief differences lie in tone and the absence of the supernatural; there is also a far more ambiguous approach to metaphor.
The Stevenson and the Wilde are indisputably great works, but no one's going to call them subtle. Bruges-la-Morte, though, edges away from allegory, or maintains a pious silence as to whether it is, or is not, allegorical. It certainly is symbolist, though, in the sense that Georges Rodenbach's reputation is as a symbolist writer. But the city fathers of Bruges, indignant that a Rodenbach identified the city with death and morbid religiosity, never mind how appreciatively and ecstatically; and b that he wrote in French rather than Flemish although it would have been most difficult and counter-productive to do so at the time , refused.
A note by Will Stone at the end of the book points out that this is still the case, and that you will have to go to Ghent to find a substantial memorial to Rodenbach. An admirer has put up a modest bronze plaque in Bruges, and that's it.
But there is so much to admire in this brief novel. Like many symbolist works, it has a modern feel to it, despite all those stylistic mannerisms we associate with the era - the most striking being those fainting-sensibility exclamation marks at the end of descriptive paragraphs.
But it is those descriptions that make Bruges-la-Morte so remarkable. As Rodenbach fully intended, the chief character in the novel is the town itself: and this, remember, was some time before Joyce had the same idea about doing the same with Dublin in Ulysses. It is fitting that Alan Hollinghurst introduces this novel, for he has used elements from it in his own fiction. His novel The Folding Star is itself a homage to Bruges-la-Morte, although he doesn't feel the need to declare so in his illuminating and sympathetic introduction.
His narrator says of his lover: "I imagined a life consecrated to the image of Luc, a shuttered house, the icon of his extraordinary face candlelit in each room This is one of the greatest novels ever written about grief, loneliness and isolation; and such subjects are, alas, always relevant these days. Those suffering similar personal circumstances will find it remarkably consoling. As it turns out, Erich Korngold did such a thing in , but the Nazis banned it, and I'm not sure that he would have had the right musical attitude.
If Debussy hadn't done it, Alban Berg would have been ideal. I keep thinking about music so much because so much music resides in the words, even in the very able translation. This is a book which is not only richly, almost oppressively, atmospheric: it is about atmosphere, about how a city can be a state of mind as well as a geographical entity.
It has its shocks and its melodrama: but it is a haunting, and a haunted work. Congratulations to Dedalus for reviving it. Bruges-la-Morte is by Georges Rodenbach, not Charles. This has been corrected. As Rodenbach fully intended, the chief character in the novel is the town itself: and this, remember, was some time before Joyce had the same idea about doing the same with Dublin in Ulysses It is fitting that Alan Hollinghurst introduces this novel, for he has used elements from it in his own fiction.
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The novel is notable for two reasons, it was the archetypal Symbolist novel, and was the first work of fiction illustrated with photographs. It tells the story of Hugues Viane, a widower overcome with grief, who takes refuge in Bruges where he lives among the relics of his former wife - her clothes, her letters, a length of her hair - rarely leaving his house. Bruges-la-Morte is a Symbolist novel, perhaps the Symbolist novel, according to critic James Gardner. It is very modern as in modernism in the sense nothing much happens. Rodenbach interspersed his text with dozens of black-and-white photographs of Bruges.
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There is something very familiar about this story: a middle-aged widower, Hugues Viane, moves to Bruges as it is the town most suited to his melancholy. He desperately misses his wife; and in the cloistral, muffled, moribund city of Bruges he finds the perfect analogue for his grief. And then one day he sees a woman in the street who appears to be the exact double of his dead wife. He obsesses about her, pursues her, and eventually begins a relationship with her.
A brief glimpse of Bruges
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