Top positive review
Bruges - dark, cold and unloved
21 January 2011
This is a French symbolist novella written in 1892 and is a dark love story based in Bruges.
Now - Do not be tempted to read the back cover story précis (of the Magritte cover edition) - it will absolutely spoil the ending as it describes everything to the last page; fortunately I, through luck spotting the phrase `struggle's climax' being another way of saying `spoiler alert', managed to avoid it and so the ending maintained its sharp drama.
This is a bleak love story with few characters, Hugues Viane a 5 year widower who meets Jane Scott a dancer and double-ganger for his dead wife. The other two characters are Barbe his religious house-keeper and the city-scape Bruges itself.
I'm sure you can imagine where a devoted love for a dead one will lead but this is a very good story indeed. The grey, overseeing Bruges impacts the story in a way the symbolist style intended, permeating and slightly sinister. It does have hints of The Golem but this tale is perhaps more subtle and certainly less existential.
This is an excellent, descriptive story; the analogies and cold Bruges seep out. I'd suggest trying to reading in one sitting.
Here are a few quotes:
On this particular day, the widower was reliving his past all the more painfully on account of the grey weather of November, when the bells scatter the dead ashes of the years, as it were, into the air in a dust of sounds.
...it seemed necessary also to sponge and wipe very carefully the clear surface of the mirrors, so as not to erase her face sleeping deep within them.
... the relentless late autumn drizzle, shedding tears, weaving into the water, tacking the air, pricking the still surface of the canals, capturing and paralyzing the soul like a bird trapped in the wet meshes of an endless net.