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The Cathedral of Mist

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  85 ratings  ·  14 reviews
First published in French in 1983, The Cathedral of Mist is a collection of stories from the last of the great Francophone Belgian fantasists: distilled tales of distant journeys, buried memories and impossible architecture. Described here are the emotionally disturbed architectural plan for a palace of emptiness; the experience of snowfall in a bed in the middle of a Finn ...more
Paperback, 99 pages
Published July 5th 2016 by Wakefield Press (first published 1983)
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Nate D
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: dreaming architects
Recommended to Nate D by: reflected in an equine retina
Delicate, somber, ruminative, ephemeral, with both the enigmatic compression of poetry and a total clarity of image and vision that makes reading these a total pleasure. I'm experiencing these in parallel with stories of another Belgian playwright-turned-storyteller (Michel de Ghelderode's Spells, also recently issued by Wakefield), which brings out even moreso just how thematically and stylistically refined and singular these are. Willems has a special skill for distilling mythic moments from e ...more
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Willems was called "A sorrowful, distinctly Belgian Italo Calvino". I don't take this lightly, as Calvino is one of my favorite authors of all time. So I went into this little volume reading with my emotional and intellectual guards up.

They didn't stay up for long. They couldn't. What my heart shielded me from, my mind let slip past. And when my thoughts were strong, I melted, emotionally. These works wove their way through me until I thought, by the end, that perhaps I was the titular Cathedral
Mason Jones
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very nice short book of poetic, surrealist stories and essays translated from the French. The last two pieces are ruminations on reading and writing, respectively, while the others are fiction. The stories remind me a bit of Leonora Carrington's work, dreamlike and contemplative, though set more in the real world. Only one feels a bit dated in its attitudes (the book is from 1983 but the stories are from earlier). The title story is probably my favorite, a gorgeous piece about the creation of a ...more
Aug 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read the first book in this collection, "Requiem for Bread" on TIN HOUSE and it just made me need to buy the book immediately. So I did, and I really like this slim collection. Willems approach is similar throughout the book, this kind of almost fable-like accretion, where elements are introduced one at a time until they develop their own internal relations. Meanwhile, Willems language and syntax retains this perfect equipoise and sang froid, even if sometimes I had no idea what he was talking ...more
Bill Hsu
Apr 13, 2018 rated it liked it
The stories are dark, slippery nuggets of narrative, open-ended and attractive. I don't care much for the two essays though.
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Paul Willems (1912–1997) was a Belgian novelist and playwright. In this short volume, he uses magical realism, mirrors, and wordplay to explore the shaded side of life, death, memory, the evanescent and ephemeral. His ideas come softly aglow in each text:

For example, he found an imaginative solution to clichés. In the following excerpt the narrator is being told of a Horse-riding people called the Schwu and how they deal with well-worn words. Concretely, with the word horse.

When a word in the Sc
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantastic, favorite
Episodic pieces of nostalgia wrapped in fantastic/surrealistic narratives filled with aphorisms on existence.

relatively easy to read, comprehend and enjoy compared to works of similar stature

Wakefield press with another amazing translation. I can't thank them enough for these works
Jeff Raymond
A short story collection translated from the original French, it's a handful of shorts that are in the New Weird vein while being a little more quiet. I don't know if it was the tone or the translation, but this largely failed to connect with me, and it just didn't work on a whole.

Your mileage may vary.
★★★ Heerlijke magisch-realistische verhalen van de voormalige directeur van het PSK in Brussel. ...more
Jan 18, 2018 added it
Some fascinating ideas on reading and writing that explore the metaphysics of literature. Willems is interested in intense moments, states of rapture where the body meets text, and the 'limit-experience.' Central to the six short stories (there are two essays on reading and writing) is a deep spirituality that brushes shoulders with Kierkegaard. Writing is like a 'leap of faith' that finds meaning in the act of its own creation. According to Willems thinking is writing and reading is a religious ...more
Kyle Crawley
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
A book made entirely of vapour. Like the best books, one that is as easy to grasp as a mirage.
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The ephemeral Cathedral of Mist was the perfect title story for this book. Paul Willems writes with both the sharp, fragile clarity of glass and evanescence of light fog dissolving in the early hours of morning.
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The Literati: The Cathedral of Mist 10 8 Nov 26, 2017 06:37PM  
Paul Willems était un écrivain francophone Belge.

Paul Willems dans la Wikipédia française

Paul Willems was een Belgische franstalige schrijver.

Paul Willems in de Nederlandstalige Wikipedia

Paul Willems in de Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren

Paul Willems was a french-speaking Belgian writer.
“I believe style is a kind of meta-language whose secrets must be learned, which is made up not only of whatever text we are reading, but of the books we have been reading for years, whose outlines lie like watermarks beneath the lines of every new work we encounter.” 1 likes
“For the palace was but emptiness, a hole in a labyrinth of lines, a skyward precipice.” 0 likes
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