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Bruges1

BRUGES-LA-MORTE
By Georges Rodenbach
Translated, with an introduction, by Will Stone

A widower, Hugues Viane, takes refuge in the decay of Bruges, living among the relics of his dead wife as he transforms his home and the very city he inhabits into her spatial embalmment. Spinning out his existence in a mournful, silent labyrinth of entombed streets and the cold arteries of canals, Viane takes comfort in his narcissistic delirium, living both for and within his deceased love, until his world is shaken by the appearance of his wife’s doppelganger: a young dancer encountered in the street, whose appearance conjures a sequence of events that will introduce the specter of reality into his ritualist dream-state to disastrous effect.

Regarded by many as the archetype of the symbolist novel, Bruges-la-Morte, first published in 1892, remains Georges Rodenbach’s most famous work: a carefully woven tapestry of death and melancholy that has seen numberous cinematic and operatic adaptations and inspired the source material for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. It was also a precursor to such authors as André Breton and W. G. Sebold in being the first novel to employ photographs as illustrations—to allow readers, as Rodenbach put it, to “be subject to the presence of the town, feel the contagion of the neighboring waters, sense in their turn the shadow of the high towers reaching across the text.”

Georges Rodenbach (1855–1898) was one of the major figures of Belgian symbolism, opening the door to a new literary direction from the stultified Romanticism that had held sway in his country until then. He was an essential bridge between the Belgian and Parisian literary scenes, and a friend and colleague of such Belgian literary figures as Emile Verhaeren, Max Elskamp, and Maurice Maeterlinck, and such Parisian figures as Stéphane Mallarmé and Joris-Karl Huysmans. He was the author of four novels, eight collections of verse, and numerous short stories, plays, and critical works. “If it were necessary to assign Rodenbach a place in Belgian literature,” wrote Emile Verhaeren, “it would be easy to define. He would stand in the premier rank of those whose sorrow, pain, subtle sentiment and talent nourished by memory, braid a crown of pale violets on the brow of Flanders.”

April 2022
4.5 x 7, 160 pp.
$14.95 US
978-1-939663-81-8

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