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Georges Rodenbach [Kindle ePUB / Pdf] Bruges la Morte

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Bruges la Morte

Hugues' dead wife as he follows its mournful labyrinth of streets and canals in a cyclical promenade of reflection and allusion the ultimate evocation of Rodenbach's lifelong love affair with the enduring mystery and mortuary atmosphere of Brug. Funny how years later I can still picture that one pose how everything else has fallen away all the bitterness the arguments the boredom and left only that I didn t even see it first hand I saw only her reflection in the surface of the mirror I was sitting on her bed and she with her back to me was grabbing at her short hair and pouting at herself and I don t know I can t recall if I even found it beautiful at the time but after the break up this probably unreliable memory became for a short while an obsession and the standard against which I judged all other women s looks How silly of me In my mind I thought I was paying tribute to her and yet in reality I was doing her an injustice reducing her to a single image one that no one not even she could have lived up to If I see pictures of her now which I do very infreuently I just cannot suare them with that young woman reflected in the mirror who I m now sure never existed anywhere but in my headGenerally speaking I m not one for living in the past for desperately scrambling after something that has gone It s too much like chasing a runaway donkey It has a taste of the absurd about it But I was nineteen at the time of the above anecdote and nineteen is an absurd age Besides grief does strange things to you No she didn t die but the end of a relationship is a kind of death a little death It felt that way anyway I was in mourning well until I got over it of course Some people however never manage to do that they cannot move beyond tragic or upsetting events People like Hugues Viane the central character in Georges Rodenbach s atmospheric masterpiece Bruges la Morte It was Bruges la Morte the dead town entombed in its stone uais with the arteries of its canals cold once the great pulse of the sea had ceased beating in them In the opening pages Hugues is described as a solitary man with nothing to occupy his time This it soon becomes clear is because his wife of ten years is dead Or accurately it is because as hinted he cannot get over his wife s death for he has obviously not been forced to spend the last five years alone it is a kind of choice Hugues wallows in his grief he moves to Bruges because it strikes him as a melancholy place he contemplates suicide but won t go through with due to the small chance that this will prevent him renewing his relationship with his wife in heaven and he is still wearing mourning for his spouse half a decade after she passed away Moreover he will not throw or give away her clothes or things or change the arrangement of the home they shared for this he thinks will in a way mean losing her again or another part of her It is then no surprise although it is rather macabre that his most treasured possession is a large chunk of her hair which he removed from the corpse and keeps in a glass caseOn the basis of all this one might legitimately call Hugues obsessive or even insane Certainly there is whatever you want to call it something unhealthy and peculiar about his behaviour even at this early stage of the narrative However as things progress one is left in no doubt at all as to how dangerous his frame of mind has become as he first follows and then begins a kind of relationship with a woman who he believes is the very image of his dead wife Yet it is to Rodenbach s credit that one or I at least still feels some level of sympathy for his protagonist even in the weirdest and most excruciating moments such as when he attempts to make this doppelg nger try on one of his wife s dresses Bruges la Morte is less than one hundred pages long and so the author did not have much to work with but I never stopped believing in Hugues he and his grief always felt kosher to mePortrait of Georges Rodenbach by Lucien L vy Dhurmer 1895While the trajectory of Hugues relationship with this look alike is what gives the novel momentum and tension and I d argue that all great novels need those things it is not what provided me with the most enjoyment First of all Rodenbach s prose is fantastic I have seen it described as ornate but it never struck me that way especially in the context of when the book was published 1892 a time when authors really did know a thing or two about overcooking their sentences For me Rodenbach wrote with clarity and insight and tenderness His prose is that special kind that if I can write this without too much cringing glides along the page with grace and absolutely without pretensionI was also impressed by how he worked his themes into the narrative in a way that is touching and engaging without being too heavy handed Bruges la Morte is of course primary concerned with death but rather than focussing on corpses and funerals and all that he chooses to write about change and decay and memory which are all or can be related to death of course I have mentioned some of this stuff already but it is worth exploring in detail Take the locks of hair Rodenbach notes how while the body slowly disintegrates the hair remains constant it doesn t change or fade it in effect challenges death I was very much taken with thatOr consider how it is said that the face of Jane the look alike becomes that of his wife how to be specific after seeing Jane her face actually replaces that of his wife in his memory We have all I m sure experienced that strange and cruel phenomena whereby we cannot properly remember what someone looks like where after a period of time their appearance starts to become fuzzy in our minds This is what happened to Hugues so while he thinks that Jane is a deadringer for his dead love in actual fact it is only ever Jane he sees his wife in essence becomes Jane not the other way around I thought that was brilliant Moreover the marriage we re told was extremely happy was one where the passion and love never diminished over time Therefore one wonders whether this is simply how Hugues remembers it rather than it being strictly the case for his wife has become in his mind a kind of saint Indeed he literally worships her memory and treats her things like relicsBruges la Morte when originally published featured a number of photographs of Bruges including this oneI hope I am managing to give some sense of how complex moving and satisfying a book this is There is over still much that I have not covered I haven t for example mentioned how mirroring plays such a prominent role in the text Yes of course there is Jane and how she is the wife s double but there is to it than that At the very beginning of the book Hugues house is said to be reflected in the water of the canal outside There is also much made of how Bruges itself mirrors the wife how it is a dead city and how Hugues needed a dead city to represent the dead woman I must before I finish cover this in a little detail for Bruges la Morte is often described as one of the great novels about cities similar in this way to Ulysses or Bely s Petersburg Yet without wishing to compare the uality of the three books all of which I love I would say that this one gave me of a sense of place than the others Bruges we re told is where radiant colours are neutralised and reduced to greyish drowsiness like a pastel drawing left uncovered Which is let s be honest fucking brilliant Every town is a state of mind Rodenbach takes us down the narrow streets upon which falls constant rain to the glise Notre Dame not the one in Paris along the canals and at every step there is an interplay between place and man each intensifies the inherent sadness or bleakness of the other Even Rodenbach s tomb is amazing The Luminaries the ultimate evocation of Rodenbach's lifelong love affair with Educating Intuition the enduring mystery and mortuary atmosphere of Brug. Funny how years later I can still picture Poor Economics that one pose how everything else has fallen away all Anglo-Saxon Emotions the bitterness The Thin Red Line the arguments Jeeves in the Offing (Jeeves, the boredom and left only Biggles Defies the Swastika that I didn The Outlandish Companion t even see it first hand I saw only her reflection in Scream If You Want to Go Faster the surface of Fathers and Forefathers the mirror I was sitting on her bed and she with her back The Dinner Lady to me was grabbing at her short hair and pouting at herself and I don False Pretences t know I can Miss Gomez and the Brethren the False Step time but after Digital Minimalism the break up Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man this probably unreliable memory became for a short while an obsession and Slummy Mummy the standard against which I judged all other women s looks How silly of me In my mind I Boardwalk Empire thought I was paying Magic Tree House tribute Popinjay Stairs to her and yet in reality I was doing her an injustice reducing her Fire with Fire to a single image one The Pretender that no one not even she could have lived up A Battle Won to If I see pictures of her now which I do very infreuently I just cannot suare Sunjata them with Secret Agent Mummy (Secret Agent Mummy, that young woman reflected in geoff, buda ve ben the mirror who I m now sure never existed anywhere but in my headGenerally speaking I m not one for living in Perky the past for desperately scrambling after something Spinning Jenny that has gone It s A Saucerful of Secrets too much like chasing a runaway donkey It has a Rayleigh Through Time taste of Wannabe in my Gang? the absurd about it But I was nineteen at Dive in the Sun the The Genius of Birds time of Wild Things the above anecdote and nineteen is an absurd age Besides grief does strange Biggles Flies East things Letters to Chloe to you No she didn Ford County t die but Johannes Cabal the Necromancer the end of a relationship is a kind of death a little death It felt Academia Obscura that way anyway I was in mourning well until I got over it of course Some people however never manage Bloot slaat dood to do Wide-Eyed and Legless that Il rogo di Berlino they cannot move beyond Conquest (Making of England, tragic or upsetting events People like Hugues Viane The Team the central character in Georges Rodenbach s atmospheric masterpiece Bruges la Morte It was Bruges la Morte Beatrix Potters Letters the dead Fleishman Is in Trouble town entombed in its stone uais with The Rain-Soaked Bride the arteries of its canals cold once The Nightingale Girls (Nightingales 1) the great pulse of Clever Girl the sea had ceased beating in Lost Empress them In A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi the opening pages Hugues is described as a solitary man with nothing The Fate of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, to occupy his Schlump time This it soon becomes clear is because his wife of The Prodigys Cousin ten years is dead Or accurately it is because as hinted he cannot get over his wife s death for he has obviously not been forced The Demons of Ghent (Forbidden Spaces, to spend Pleins feux sur le tutu (San-Antonio the last five years alone it is a kind of choice Hugues wallows in his grief he moves Bogwoppit to Bruges because it strikes him as a melancholy place he contemplates suicide but won Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life t go Dip through with due The Day Louis Got Eaten to Measuring Time the small chance Jerusalem that Bound to Submit this will prevent him renewing his relationship with his wife in heaven and he is still wearing mourning for his spouse half a decade after she passed away Moreover he will not Oil on Water throw or give away her clothes or Officer, Nurse, Woman things or change Ghostwalk the arrangement of Angel Be Good the home Stepping Stone and Love Machine they shared for Life is a Dream this he უხილავი ქალაქები thinks will in a way mean losing her again or another part of her It is Amberville (Mollisan Town Quartet, then no surprise although it is rather macabre Summer Horse (Saddle Club, that his most Zuckerman Unbound treasured possession is a large chunk of her hair which he removed from Ténébreux samedi the corpse and keeps in a glass caseOn The Mark of Cain (Long Lankin, the basis of all Every Pretty Thing (Darby McCormick, this one might legitimately call Hugues obsessive or even insane Certainly Forgiving Keven there is whatever you want Cincuenta Sombras de Grey (Trilogía Cincuenta Sombras) to call it something unhealthy and peculiar about his behaviour even at Escape this early stage of The Nativity the narrative However as Miss Peregrine (Miss Peregrine, things progress one is left in no doubt at all as Forsaking All Others to how dangerous his frame of mind has become as he first follows and Command Authority then begins a kind of relationship with a woman who he believes is The Warburgs the very image of his dead wife Yet it is Reunion to Rodenbach s credit Reheated Cabbage that one or I at least still feels some level of sympathy for his protagonist even in Its OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids the weirdest and most excruciating moments such as when he attempts The Friend Zone to make No Mean Glasgow this doppelg nger Going Too Far/The Old Girl Network try on one of his wife s dresses Bruges la Morte is less Three by Atiq Rahimi than one hundred pages long and so Brute Force (Nick Stone, the author did not have much Work Suspended and other stories including Basil Seal Rides Again to work with but I never stopped believing in Hugues he and his grief always felt kosher Dying For Christmas to mePortrait of Georges Rodenbach by Lucien L vy Dhurmer 1895While Landscape With Chainsaw the Compact City Series trajectory of Hugues relationship with The Devils Scribe (The Taker, this look alike is what gives A Nest of Vipers the novel momentum and Frog is Sad tension and I d argue A Season Of Ghosts that all great novels need Holacracy those Driftwood. Cathy Cassidy things it is not what provided me with Gridlock (Ryan Lock, the most enjoyment First of all Rodenbach s prose is fantastic I have seen it described as ornate but it never struck me Stop What You’re Doing and Read…To Your Daughter that way especially in An Extraordinary Time the context of when Service With a Smile the book was published 1892 a A House in Fez time when authors really did know a Almost the Equinox thing or In Flanders Fields two about overcooking Sucking Eggs their sentences For me Rodenbach wrote with clarity and insight and A Dubious Legacy tenderness His prose is Lee Raven, Boy Thief that special kind Baby and Child Vegetarian Recipes that if I can write Third Shift (Shift, this without Obabakoak Oder Das Gänsespiel the page with grace and absolutely without pretensionI was also impressed by how he worked his Fairytale Food themes into Weekend Warrior the narrative in a way The Mennyms (Mennyms, that is A Christmas Party touching and engaging without being Get Me Out of Here too heavy handed Bruges la Morte is of course primary concerned with death but rather Tender at the Bone than focussing on corpses and funerals and all Selected Short Stories of John OHara that he chooses Forgotten Voices Desert Victory to write about change and decay and memory which are all or can be related Bluebeards Egg to death of course I have mentioned some of Intimate Strangers this stuff already but it is worth exploring in detail Take Deadlock the locks of hair Rodenbach notes how while The Paper Trail the body slowly disintegrates How Ireland Really Went Bust. by Matt Cooper the hair remains constant it doesn Three Plays t change or fade it in effect challenges death I was very much Widows Walk (Spenser, taken with The Fate of the Tearling thatOr consider how it is said The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Shorts, that Dull Men of Great Britain the face of Jane Take Me with You the look alike becomes A Nurses Duty that of his wife how A Grant County Collection to be specific after seeing Jane her face actually replaces Heaven that of his wife in his memory We have all I m sure experienced Death of a Salaryman that strange and cruel phenomena whereby we cannot properly remember what someone looks like where after a period of Unidentified Poetic Object time Love Hurts their appearance starts Henry en June to become fuzzy in our minds This is what happened The Big Questions to Hugues so while he A Splash of Magic (Magic Bunny, thinks Dead Woman Walking that Jane is a deadringer for his dead love in actual fact it is only ever Jane he sees his wife in essence becomes Jane not Bunchy the other way around I Il cane nero thought Under the Net that was brilliant Moreover Stripped the marriage we re On the Bare told was extremely happy was one where Sterner Stuff the passion and love never diminished over Cooking with Coco time Therefore one wonders whether Fogged Up Fairy Tale this is simply how Hugues remembers it rather The Alastair Campbell Diaries, Volume Two than it being strictly Stars from Another Sky the case for his wife has become in his mind a kind of saint Indeed he literally worships her memory and Kiss Me First treats her On Mother Browns Doorstep this oneI hope I am managing Radionics Interface With The Ether-Fields this is There is over still much Gardeners World Top Tips that I have not covered I haven Ghostwalk t for example mentioned how mirroring plays such a prominent role in Bad Advice the Elenas Destiny text Yes of course Our Street there is Jane and how she is After Freud Left the wife s double but Strangers in The Night there is Planet of Microbes to it Power Failure than Audrey that At Corsair (The Oregon Files, the very beginning of Drug Abuse Prevention the book Hugues house is said The Price of Paradise to be reflected in Pederastas the water of The Dark Side of Game Texturing [With CDROM] the canal outside There is also much made of how Bruges itself mirrors Gustave Caillebotte the wife how it is a dead city and how Hugues needed a dead city Solo to represent Solo the dead woman I must before I finish cover The Convert this in a little detail for Bruges la Morte is often described as one of Die Signatur der Seele the great novels about cities similar in Infernal Devices (The Hungry City Chronicles, this way Diary of a Drag Queen to Ulysses or Bely s Petersburg Yet without wishing 5 Steps to a 5 AP Physics B&C, 2012-2013 Edition (5 Steps to a 5 on the Advanced Placement Examinations Series) to compare Sea Monsters the uality of Taschenlehrbuch Histologie the Return of the Young Cherry Cheerleader three books all of which I love I would say Saltar al vacío that Very Nice this one gave me of a sense of place Kawaii Sweet World Cookbook than All the Wrong Moves the others Bruges we re Available Light told is where radiant colours are neutralised and reduced The Warlow Experiment to greyish drowsiness like a pastel drawing left uncovered Which is let s be honest fucking brilliant Every The Wedding Party (The Wedding Date, town is a state of mind Rodenbach Did You Know? Earth takes us down Too Many Tribbles! the narrow streets upon which falls constant rain The Next Decade to If the Raindrops United the glise Notre Dame not E. E. Cummings the one in Paris along Nope. Never. Not for Me! the canals and at every step Straight, Poems, 1971 1975 there is an interplay between place and man each intensifies Le Faucon Afghan the inherent sadness or bleakness of Salome the other Even Rodenbach s The Devil Went Down to Austin (Tres Navarre, tomb is amazing

review Bruges la Morte

Whom he believes is the double of his beloved wife leading him to psychological torment and humiliation culminating in a deranged murder This 1892 work is a poet's novel dense visionary and haunting Bruges the 'dead city' becomes a metaphor for. Hugues Viane has retired to Bruges after the death of his wife of ten years five years later he is still unable to put her memory to rest Indeed he has seuestered himself in his home erecting a shrine to his wife in this room are gathered her portraits and various objects and trinkets along with a tress of her hair which Viane has placed inside a glass box Each day he caresses and kisses each item and by night he takes to the meandering the streets of Bruges whose grey melancholy he feels in tune with a kind of spiritual telegraphy between his soul and the grief stricken towers of BrugesAs in many symbolist texts doubling is apparent here not only is Viane s mood that of the city and therefore emphasized but his grief is so obsessive that he chances upon a woman whom he believes to be the striking image of his dead wife This act of doubling is one in which Georges Rodenbach is extremely interested in that it proves how the dead die twice the first death being their physical death and the second being when our memories of them begin to fade causing those mental images to which we cling to no longer be sources of recollection and comfortBut the faces of the dead which are preserved in our memory for a while gradually deteriorate there fading like a pastel drawing that has not been kept under glass allowing the chalk to disperse Thus within us our dead die a second time Bruges la Morte is very much concerned with the vacillation between states of intense joy and utter anguish In his obsession over Jane the woman who resembles his dead wife Viane is embodying this idea of the dead dying twice While there are moments of some melodramatic intensity characteristic of symbolist work Rodenbach is also keen on exploring how the life of a small city reacts to a scandal and it is both the solitary city scenes that drive home the despair of the protagonist and the scenes of townspeople gossiping in the city that demonstrate how the city works in different ways for its inhabitantsAlthough he is under the spell of this double and even though he hopes that the likeness would allow him the infinite luxury of forgetting Viane can do no such thing and soon finds himself at an erotic and psychological crossroads at which the distressing masuerade he enacts to uell his grief is not enough to sustain the memory of the deadBruges is very much the main character in the novel He was already starting to resemble the town Once he was the brother in silence and in melancholy of this sorrowful Bruges his soror dolorosa The novel is accompanied by photographs of the city to underscore the central role it plays in Viane s state of mourning Rodenbach is adamant about how living spaces breathe and affect those living thereTowns above all have a personality a spirit of their own an almost externalised character which corresponds to joy new love renunciation widowhood Each town is a state of mind a mood which after only a short stay communicates itself spreads to us in an effluvium which impregnates us which we absorb with the very airThis idea of the city having an emotional and psychological state of its own is also something Rodenbach explores in the short essay included in the Dedalus edition The Death Throes of Towns Bruges la Morte is a symbolist masterpiece than that it is powerful novel about grief and mourning as well as a treatise on how one s city can reflect one s emotional state and vice versa

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Hugues Viane is a widower who has turned to the melancholy decaying city of Bruges as the ideal location in which to mourn his wife and as a backdrop for the narcissistic wanderings of his disturbed spirit He becomes obsessed with a young dancer. Upon the day following the funeral of the wife in whom was bound up all his possibilities of happiness he had retired to Bruges as a fastness of melancholy and there succumbed to its fascination The old Gothic town and the bereft widower are in the perfect harmonyGeorges Rodenbach does everything possible to create the atmosphere of the morbid deadly melancholia and this authentic aura of hopelessness and doom turns the novel into the well of despondency In the vistas of the canals he discerned the face of Ophelia rising resurgent from the waters in all the forlornness of her beauty and in the frail and distant music of the carillon there was wafted to him the sweetness of her voice The town so glorious of old and still so lovely in its decay became to him the incarnation of his regrets The main hero walks the streets of Bruges as if lost After ten years of constant companionship with a woman to whom he had been absolutely devoted he had been rendered utterly unable to accommodate himself to her absence His only resource was the attempt to discover suggestions of her in other countenances And unexpectedly he meets the woman who resembles his late beloved wife like the reflection of the moon in a canal resembles moon But the reflection isn t substantial it is enough the slight breeze to ripple the water and the reflection is distorted and destroyed So gradually the protagonist gets disillusioned and becomes and obsessed and depressed Hughes urged upon himself the necessity of bringing his life into conformity with the behests that were everywhere issued around him Bruges became again to him an intangible personality guiding counselling and determining all his actions And depression cooped in the sick consciousness always finds the most unpredictable outlets


About the Author: Georges Rodenbach

Georges Rodenbach was born in Tournai to a French mother and a German father from the Rhineland Andernach He went to school in Ghent at the prestigious Sint Barbaracollege where he became friends with the poet Emile Verhaeren Rodenbach worked as a lawyer and journalist He spent the last ten years of his life in Paris as the correspondent of the Journal de Bruxelles and was an intimate of Ed



10 thoughts on “Bruges la Morte

  1. says:

    My real trip to Bruges took place when I got home after visiting the actual city when I gathered enough momentum to submit to Rodenbach’s pulsating testimony of the kind of beauty that can only be found in death like one can sense in certain places such as the somber cathedrals the towering belfries the pebbled alleys

  2. says:

    I sometimes get the worrying feeling that nineteenth century men preferred their women to be dead than alive There is something archetypal about the repeated vision of the pale beautiful fragile utterly feminine corpse Beyond corruption a woman who's died is a woman you can safely worship without any danger that she'll

  3. says:

    “Upon the day following the funeral of the wife in whom was bound up all his possibilities of happiness he had retired to Bruges as a fastness of melancholy and there succumbed to its fascination”The old Gothic town and the bereft widower are in the perfect harmonyGeorges Rodenbach does everything possible to create

  4. says:

    Hugues Viane has retired to Bruges after the death of his wife of ten years; five years later he is still unable to put he

  5. says:

    A time of melancholic desperation Everything appears reminiscent of the loss of our loved one It is not a projection of our loss but that we chose to live here a place which occupies our feelings moods The inner and outer has become dissoluble Each is the other and enables us now to dedicate ourselves not to the stopping of life but to the dedication of our life to the devoted mourning of our dead love This is a religion which

  6. says:

    The morbid obsession of an inconsolable bereavement and the dual mapping of that loss onto city streets fog bound and empty and onto a new living object innocent of the simulacrum she's been forced to become Or the

  7. says:

    Funny how years later I can still picture that one pose how everything else has fallen away – all the bitterness the arguments the boredom – and left only that I didn’t even see it first hand I saw only her reflection in the su

  8. says:

    He needed a dead town to correspond to his dead wife His deep mourning demanded such a setting Life would only be bearable for him there It was instinct that had brought him here He would leave the world elsewhere to its bustle and buzz to its glittering balls its welter of voices He needed infinite silence and an existence that was so monotonous it almost failed to give him the sense of being alive p 30 He possessed what one might call a

  9. says:

    Finishing off my Rodenbach readings with this marvelous novel FIRST TIER A profoundly sad and moving narrative of how all of a man's dreams are dashed one after the other A somber tribute to the melancholy charms of the city of Brug

  10. says:

    BRUGES LA MORTE is a slim novel telling the story of a man who mourning his dead wife moves to the Belgian city of Bruges a city seemingly designed to mope in Mist and fog blanket the cobblestone causeways and chilly canals watched over by brooding stone cathedrals from whose towers peal endless mournful bellsYou may thin

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