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Bruges-la-Morte

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3.72  ·  Rating details ·  1,199 ratings  ·  150 reviews
Bruges-la-Morte is the story of one man’s obsession with his dead wife and his soul’s struggle between an alluring young dancer—his late wife’s double—and the beautiful, melancholy city of Bruges, whose moody atmosphere mirrors his mourning. This hallmark of Belgian symbolist literature, first translated into English by Philip Mosley to great acclaim twenty years ago, is ...more
Paperback, 90 pages
Published December 15th 2007 by University of Scranton Press (first published 1892)
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Dolors
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dolors by: The quays of Bruges
Shelves: read-in-2017
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 and greyish quays that compose the skeleton of Bruges, once a decadent city brought back to life by the refined pen of a Symbolist’s contemplation.

Hugues Viane is a
...more
Warwick
Dec 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ruin the image by doing something vulgar like using the wrong form of address to a bishop, or blowing your best friend. It's a vision that crops up everywhere in the works ...more
Vit Babenco
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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 harmony…
Georges 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
...more
Proustitute


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 sequestered 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
...more
Stephen P
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stephen by: Dolors(Review)
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 is supported by the mementos of the beloved dead wife ...more
Nate D
Aug 08, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: simulacra
Recommended to Nate D by: empty streets
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 book doesn't really see her as innocent, casting her as a somewhat blandly archetypal manipulative harlot, but really who wouldn't fair poorly under the projected image of a lover who is unable to see her at all behind the other he has lost? Still, the streets of Bruges have a ...more
[P]
Dec 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bitchin
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 ...more
S̶e̶a̶n̶
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: a glass half full
Recommended to S̶e̶a̶n̶ by: the haunting song of a dying swan
Shelves: 2019, dedalus
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 'sense of resemblance', an extra sense, frail
...more
Shawn
Mar 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 bells.

You may think I'm being satirical but, actually, this is a great, atmospheric read. Our narrator is shocked to pass a woman in the street who looks exactly liked his dead wife (this
...more
Jim
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: france, fiction
This short novel bears a startling resemblance to Alfred Hitchcock's film Vertigo and to the Boileau and Narcejac novel upon which it is based D'Entre les Morts). Having lost his wife, Hugues Viane moves to the melancholy city of Bruges in Belgium where he lives a somber life morosely contemplating his loss some five years ago. His house has become, in effect, a museum dedicated to her with the same furniture, the clothing, paintings, and -- most highly prized of all -- a braided blonde tress ...more
Eadweard
This is going straight to my Favorites shelf.

" Ten years of this happiness, ten years hardly noticed, so quickly had they passed. Then his young wife had died, just as she reached her thirtieth year, confined for a few short weeks to her bed, which quickly became her deathbed, an image that would remain with him for ever: faded and white, like the candle burning at her head, the woman he had adored for the beauty of her radiant complexion, of her eyes, black, dilated pupils set in mother of
...more
Robert Wechsler
Sep 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french-lit
This novel is not my style: it’s a symbolist work of High Romanticism, obsessed with death, religion, and excessive emotion. But it is beautifully written and the perfect length. Its elements – love, death, ritual, doubles, and all the aspects of the city of Bruges that the protagonist feels reflect the condition of his soul (you can practically hear the ringing, ringing, ringing of the bells) – are very well handled. I thank my Goodreads friends who recommended the book so highly.

I am glad that
...more
Kobe Bryant
Its crazy how many frail wives just fall sick and die in these old books. What the hell were they doing back then
Rob
Mar 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Rodenbach’s little known symbolist masterpiece is herewith curiously translated and published in English by the exceedingly obscure University of Scranton Press. Scranton, let’s not forget, is the setting for the US version of television’s "The Office", but there the comparisons end. This classic of Belgian literature epitomises the decadent final years of the nineteenth century, a north of the border companion piece to the poetry of Baudelaire and Verlaine, rich in dreaminess and mysterious in ...more
Jim Elkins
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: flemish
This is a Symbolist classic, a portrait of a man in mourning who sees himself in the "dead" city of Bruges, tied to it by "an extra sense, frail and sickly," which links moods to buildings and images, "creating a spiritual telegraphy" between the soul "and the grief-stricken towers of Bruges." (p. 60.)

There is interesting literature on this book--the art historian Georges Didi-Huberman has written on it--but that it not my interest. I read it because it has illustrations, photographs of the
...more
Orçun
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Bruges-la-Morte is a masterpiece in symbolist fiction – in fact, it is more like a prose poem dedicated to the city of Bruges, as a part of one man’s mourning. This novella has many themes: Bereavement, obsession, mortality, desire, religion, solitude, isolation. And above all, it is a long meditation on “resemblance” . The mysterious atmosphere and ambiguity of coincidences remind me André Breton’s Nadja. Of course, this piece (published in 1892) is much more melancholic, but I don’t agree that ...more
Christine
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gothic, 2017
This was a fascinating little Gothic novel, ripe with eerie poetic melancholy and described as "the" Symbolist novel. It tells the tale of a widower (Hughes) who moves to Bruges after his young wife's death only to become enchanted and obsessed with a young dancer (Jane) who resembles his dead wife:

"So complete was his hallucination that it banished all consciousness of treachery to the woman that he had adored. No fleeting shadow of skepticism disturbed the blissfulness of his illusion."

The
...more
Pete daPixie
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My introduction to the writing of Georges Rodenbach comes in two parts. A very short novella 'Bruges-la-Morte' and a shorter essay 'The Death Throes of Towns'. The latter displays similar images of Bruges as the main story.
Very poetic prose full of allegory and symbolism. Desolate, yet eminently readable. The text is accompanied throughout with photographic scenes of the city.
Having visited Bruges on two occasions I can state that it is not the image that Rodenbach portrays. Perhaps with its
...more
Karas Jim
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a story that masterfully portrays human grief and the everyday rituals that one undertakes in order to cope. When longing and nostalgia mingle with grief, the end result is bigger than one person, larger and darker than the grim city of Bruges...
Therese Skatvold
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did this as an audiobook in French. It was so much the story but the style that cought me in this book. It is more about a feeling than a story. It's slow and sad like death might feel.
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Alan
Mar 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
another from Writers No one Reads, but I notice plenty of people on GR have!

Went to Bruges a couple of years ago, and bought this later as a kind of memento. Unfortunately this edition is not the one that includes pictures of the town, but then I have photos and guides already, so I can (and did) look at those. It’s true it’s a melancholy town with gloomy towers and canals sliding out of sight, but in fact now it’s full of stag and hen parties, taking advantage of the hundreds of different
...more
Peter
“Bruges was his dead wife. And his dead wife was Bruges.”

Rodenbach seems to have been so pleased with this symbolist concept that he repeats and elaborates the connexion at every opportunity. It’s a bit like trying to read a library book in which some previous reader had underlined all the ‘important’ passages.

Rodenbach’s protagonist – a widower from the leisured class – goes about his mourning in a clinical fashion, selecting Bruges as the most melancholy and decayed town for his purposes,
...more
Michel
Dec 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit, cultures, eleole
"Ce plat pays qui est le mien" (Brel)
Bruges is of course no longer dead, revived as it was by tourism, and by enlightened urbanists who forbade home owners any modernization of their 13th century façades.
But in the Venice of the North, the sky is still grey, "so grey a canal got lost..."
I read this book just after I emigrated, and I still remember it with emotion, an ode to melancholy, spleen, heimwee…
I guess I am a bit too much of a romantic.
Greg McConeghy
Nov 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-translation
I read this in preparation of a production of the opera Die Tote Stadt by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, which will be performed by The Dallas Opera in March 2014. The 23 year-old Korngold based his opera on this book. I suspect that Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo also owes a debt to this story.
Oana
Sep 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you love Symbolist literature, this is a fun, quick read. Better yet read it in Bruges itself. Best read during an autumn visit. The book sounds like travel propaganda for Bruges if the tourism board were trying to attract the goth crowd.
Christopher
Oct 08, 2012 rated it really liked it


Set in a stunningly wrought Bruges, a purgatory dealing out death, rebirth, and damnation each with the same holy quietude, widower Hugues stumbles into a rebound relationship of mythic stature. Gorgeous descriptive language. Obvious why it was successfully adapted to opera.
Darran Mclaughlin
I just wrote a review of this and it got lost somehow. I can't be arsed to do it again at the moment.
Rose
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My Review:

It is easy to see why Korngold was so moved by Rodenbach’s most infamous symbolist masterpiece. Philip Mosley’s exquisite translation from the original French paints a heart-wrenching, yet wholly intoxicating mental image of that most perpetually immutable of ‘dead’ cities – Bruges – and it’s sickening, vice-like grip on Hugues Viane, the work’s protagonist and archetypal coeur brisé, who exists within it’s cold, austere cobblestoned corridors merely to bask in it’s depressive
...more
Christopher
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Read in the original. It's sort of a cliché for a reviewer to say a book makes its setting a character, but Bruges-la-Morte, the first novel to be illustrated with photographs, takes a real stab at it. Nearly all the pictures are gray, empty street scenes with the still waters of nearby canals showing reflections of stone buildings. A few other pictures are of religious artifacts. Both motifs accurately evoke the themes of the text. The main character, a widower, lives a gray empty life devoted ...more
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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 ...more
“As he walked, the sad faded leaves were driven pitilessly around him by the wind, and under the mingling influences of autumn and evening, a craving for the quietude of the grave … overtook him with unwanted intensity.” 11 likes
“The widower reviewed his past in a sunless light which was intensified by the greyness of the November twilight, whilst the bells subtly impregnated the surrounding atmosphere with the melody of sounds that faded like the ashes of dead years.” 10 likes
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