Bruges-La-Morte by Georges Rodenbach is one of those minor pieces of world literature that can have a major effect on the reader. It is not a sublime work of art, . 3 / 1 / Georges Rodenbach, Bruges-la-Morte. James Elkins. This is the book most often taken as the starting point for novels illustrated with photographs. BRUGES-LA-MORTE t ‘Ronance. BY. GEORGES RODENBACH. Translated from the rench, with a Critical. Introduction, by. THOMAS DUNCAN. WITH THREE.
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This is the book most often taken as the starting point for novels illustrated with photographs. Many images showing mote or completely deserted streets and waterways, as in Breton, as in Rodenbach. The full original is online at the Internet Archiveand it can be downloaded as a pdf.
Review: Bruges-la-Morte by Georges Rodenbach | Books | The Guardian
Apparently there is no scanned online copy of an English translation other than the Will Stone version see below. From the beginning, as it is with any example of writing with images, there is geodges question of how the images are associated with the text.
Here are a few notes on reading the opening pages.
I have numbered the images. Someone has also numbered them, in pencil, in the copy on the Internet Archive.
The facing page has the first photograph of a canal. In the distance is a chimney and its reflection, and a church tower. This conjunction sets up a reader for further concordances. I prefer to say that the correlation of images and actual places is intentionally only partial and unelaborated. The second photograph is astonishing. It is the same view, but taken from about fifteen feet in front of the position the photographer stood for the first picture. Notice there are three trees on the left in the first photograph; the second was apparently taken next to the nearest of those three.
Note, too, that these photographs were taken many hours or days apart: Perhaps he liked the way the second photograph revisits the first, in a more intensive fashion. Or maybe he meant to point readers toward some specific differences: Whatever the sequence, and regardless of what he had his eye on, the pair is mesmerizing: At the bottom of the page before this spread, we read: The next image is Notre-Dame, where Hugues has gone to see the tombs, and especially the effigies of Charles the Bold and Mary of Burgundy.
This is the first such image, I think, in the literature. More about that here. It also comes three pages after the mention of the location, after Hugues has already gone into the theater.
It is consistent with the pictures of the city throughout the book: The narrative here is still the scene in the theater, so this is the first image that is disconnected from the text. There are 35 photographs in the first edition, but I hope I have said enough to suggest that they repay a kind of combination of reading and looking that the book so far has not received.
The first person appears, I think, in photo no. This image has a different tint because it is from from the Wikimedia scans. There is clearly a person at the lower right of the photo no. But a close looks reveals a person and a half standing next to him, accompanied by a blur a second person? Several photos have potentially interesting, distracting figures in them.
The next photo, no. Three possibilities present themselves. I prefer the third alternative.
In this case it is possible that Rodenbach chose the photo partly for its grouping of figures, and it is not unlikely that we are to imagine this as the sort of thing Hugues sees as he wanders around the city. The figures in the photos raise interesting problems for reading. In his mind, Hugues is disconsolate and utterly alone. It beorges often noted that the book proposes that Hugues experiences Bruges as his dead wife, so that the city itself is dead in the way a person can be.
The untranslatable title compresses that into a formula. At the same time, Hugues wanders in this city, so it is also something more than a projection. There are several meanings entangled here, which it may be useful mlrte provisionally separate:. A The city is a character.
This is what Rodenbach says, so it should be listed first. In this sense every photograph is either part of bruged portrait, or—in a wonderful equivocation—all the photographs comprise a portrait. The rodenbsch quality is especially clear in photographs with water, towers, or the main Bruges belfry.
C The photographs are a portrait, or representation, of Hugues.
Bruges-La-Morte by Georges Rodenbach
He holds death in the city and in doing so becomes it. They allow us, the reader, to be Hugues both his gaze upon the city, and his recollection of it. In their absence they enable our presence. D The city is a photograph.
In another interesting conflation, the city may also be a sequence of photographs. E The photographs are of a city. This is what the narrative elaborates. The photographs seem most like documents of Bruges when we think of them as stock photographs chosen by Rodenbach, or when we notice—as Edwards does—that they were made with plate cameras with shifted bellows to ensure the verticals remain upright.
This is also developed in the narrative, so it conflicts with the nominal realism of the photographs. For me the least interesting meaning is that the images are stock photographs chosen by the author. A more interesting possibility is that we are seeing the city as Hugues experiences it, drained of color and mostly of people.
A brief glimpse of Bruges
That is a difficult trick for a novelist who writes with images, and I think the ambiguities I have listed her actually help eodenbach that possibility alive. Envoi, on non-visual editors and editions. The carelessness and lack of concern for the visual—and the assumption that the photographs can be detached from the writing—may be characteristic of the history of the illustrated novel as a whole.
The recent English translation by Will Stone poses a special problem for this project. In only learned this after I read the book, from a film documentary.
And why spend time translating one of the seminal novels with illustrations if its illustrations mean so little? Brilliant article — and brilliant project overall. A slight amendment for you: Your email address will not be published.
James Elkins This is the book most often taken as the starting point for novels illustrated with photographs. Inventory From the beginning, as it is with any example of writing with images, there is a question of how the images are associated with the text.
The ontology of the images It is often noted that the book proposes that Hugues experiences Bruges as his dead wife, so that the city itself is dead in the way a person can be. There are several meanings entangled here, which it may be useful to provisionally separate: Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published.