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Bruges-la-Morte Paperback – 31 Oct 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 166 pages
  • Publisher: Dedalus Ltd; 2nd edition edition (31 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1903517826
  • ISBN-13: 978-1903517826
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 172,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Bruges-la-Morte, first published in 1892, is one of the great masterpieces of the Symbolist period and of city writing. Rodenbach does for Bruges what Dickens did for London and Meyrink and kafka did for Prague.Hugues Viane, a widower, has turned to the melancholy, decaying city of Bruges as the ideal location in which to mourn his wife. There he find a suitable haven for the narcissistic perambulations of his inexorably disturbed spirit. The story itself centres on Hugue's obsession with a young dancer whom he believes is the double of his beloved wife.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Park on 19 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
This edition differs from the slightly cheaper and more popular one in that it also contains a high-quality introduction from the famous - one might even say infamous - novelist, Adam Hollighurst.

It is clear that Hollinghurst is a staunch defender of the works of Rodenbach, which had become unpopular in Flanders after the war because of their Victorian "Gothick" melancholy and intensely rich "purple" prose, so beloved of French novelists at that time. Yet Rodenbach, a Flem by birth, uses this style to great effect.

For a reader to truly understand and appreciate this novel they need to accept that Rodenbach is using the wafer-thin plotline as a foil to his true love, the "dying" city of Bruges. Rodenbach's hero wanders aimlessly through the streets and canals, not to further any obvious purpose, but simply to absorb the subtle symbolism of every damp cobblestone, every shimmering ripple and every mournful bell into his - and the reader's - imagination.

As Hollinghurst so astutely observes, "...a novel of this kind is not to be judged by its likeness to life, or indeed to most other novels, It creates a rarefied world, internalised and intensified by feeling"

This is but a short novel, and I would urge readers who would usually seek for a story to dwell a while in the rich medieval padding of Rodenbach's descriptions. Such indulgent experiences are rare on the modern page and should be savoured. As for Hollinghust's championing of Rodenbach (the name is more famous in today's Flanders for a brand of beer!), I can now well understand that author's wish to rehabilitate this once great writer to the pre-eminence he once so deservedly enjoyed.
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By eddy bruin on 1 Jun. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By nickandsusie on 15 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
All good, nothing bad!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A Symbolist Jewel 19 Dec. 2011
By Mary Wilbur - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had never heard of the Flemish (he wrote in French) Belgian poet/novelist Georges Rodenbach until I read an article about him in the Review section of the weekend edition of the "Wall Street Journal" a couple of weeks ago. I was particularly struck by the picture which the paper reproduced of the 1890 portrait of Rodenbach by Lucien Levy-Dhurmer. It's the face and shoulders of a pale blond sad youngish man in an open-neck shirt with the misty, medieval city of Bruges in the background. It's a compelling portrait but less a portrait of Rodenbach than it is of the protagonist of "Bruges la Morte," the widower Hugues Viane. Rodenbach was a symbolist author. According to the British poet and translator of Rodenbach's essay "The Death Throes of Towns" appended at the end of the novel, "Melancholy, solitude, morbidity, neuropathic tendencies and unresolved longing for an imagined past are all classic hallmarks of the symbolist mindset." "Bruges la Morte" is all of these and more. It is a story of Hugues Viane who chose to live in Bruges following the premature death of his wife, with whom he was very much in love, because it was a "dead town." "His deep mourning demanded such a setting. Life would only be bearable for him there. . . . He needed infinite silence and an existence that was so monotonous it almost failed to give him the sense of being alive." He has turned his grief for his wife (we are never told her name) into a religious cult. He keeps a room in his large house devoted to her relics, especially the long golden braid of hair which he cut off after she died and keeps in a locked glass reliquary. He visits the room every morning touching and kissing the photos and other objects, except the hair, as if they were the relics of a dead saint and he could be sanctified by them. Viane wanders through the town every evening thinking of his dead wife. On one of the walks he sees a woman who looks exactly like her, Jane Scott. He follows her and eventurally discovers she is an opera dancer. The plot of this short novel is the working out of the deeply disturbing relationship between Hugues and Jane. The affair violates the morals of this pious pre-Vatican II provincial Catholic town. ". . . the gables shaped like mitres, the streets adorned with Madonnas, the wind filled with the sound of bells -- an example of piety and austerity streamed towards Hugues, the influence of a Catholicism ingrained in the very air and the stones." There is so much beauty in this novel -- the close observation that underlies the description of Bruges' quais, the canals, the swans, the churches their bells and the great art to be found in their interiors funded by the wealth of nobles from the era of its greatness during the High Middle Ages, the gossips of the town who have attached mirrors to the outside of their windows so they can sit inside their houses and observe the goings on of the street reflected in these mirrors without themselves being observed, and above all the community of convents of the Beguinage and its fantastically dressed nuns, which is itself a town within a town. This is a very fine novel which evokes a time, place and culture very much like the finest travel writers. While reading it I couldn't help thinking of Colin Thubron's book "To a Mountain in Tibet" which is the story of his assent of a mountain sacred to Buddhism and Hinduism and is infused with thoughts of death and solitude. Hugues has written a work of art. I hope more people will read and appreciate it.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A review of the Dedalis European Classics Edition 13 April 2013
By Mohe - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an important work, and due to the beauty of Bruges and its attraction to Anglophone tourists it is good to have a new English translation, especially such a fluid and atmospheric one, that is remarkably close to the original French.

But this edition is terrible. Bruges La Morte is one of the first photo illustrated novels, the density of illustration is great and the illustrations are essential to the novel. The original photogravures were of high quality and aesthetically good, here however they are replaced by muddy, dark, and almost impenetrable photos of contemporary Bruges, complete with cars and guardrails. An endnote justifies replacement of these public domain images by saying that they "were hardly ever produced in their entirety in subsequent editions. Only the Garnier-Flammarion edition reproduces all of them." This is nuts. First the Garnier Flammarion edition is pretty much the standard edition, go into any French bookstore and this is the edition you will find. Do a search for Bruges-la-morte on, and this is the first edition that will show up. This is like saying that since Thackeray's illustrations to Vanity Fair are seldom reproduced in their entirety except in the Oxford edition, we decide to redraw them in a worse style and show how much the technology of printing has decayed by printing them as badly as possible.

Other than that, this is a delightful book and forgotten fin de siecle classic.
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