Bruges-la-Morte by Mike Mitchell, Georges Rodenbach

By Mike Mitchell, Georges Rodenbach

Bruges-la-Morte, which first seemed in 1892, matters the destiny of Hugues Viane, a widower who has became to the depression, decaying urban of Bruges because the perfect situation within which to mourn his spouse and as an appropriate haven for the narcissistic perambulations of his inexorably disturbed spirit. Bruges, the 'dead city', turns into a twin of his lifeless spouse and hence permits him to suffer, to control the insufferable loss by way of systematically following its mournful labyrinth of streets and canals in a cyclical prom of mirrored image and allusion. the tale itself centres round Hugues' obsession with a tender dancer whom he believes is the double of his loved spouse. the ensuing drama leads Hugues onto a plank stroll of mental torment and humiliation, culminating in a deranged homicide. it is a poet's novel and is for this reason metaphorically dense and visionary common. it's the final evocation of Rodenbach's lifelong love affair with the long-lasting secret and haunting mortuary surroundings of Bruges.

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Several days later the captain secretly allowed the mate to escape, leading the crew nearly to a state of mutiny. The anguished captain subsequently committed suicide, by drowning himself, and the mate was eventually caught and convicted of man-slaughter. In Conrad舗s version of the story, which is set in the Gulf of Siam and elides the race issue, it is without the complicity of his captain that the mate (here named Leggatt) escapes imprisonment on his ship. He swims to a nearby vessel, where he is taken in by the narrator, and much of the story is occupied with detailing the uncomfortable, and often comic, circumstances surrounding the latter舗s efforts to keep the presence of his stowaway secret.

Unlike Maupassant舗s compact, elliptical stories, however舒and despite his own assertion that 舠[i]t takes a small-scale narrative (short story) to show the master舗s hand舡 (Collected Letters, vol. 1, p. 124)舒Conrad舗s stories tend to be long and richly detailed, and, as his creative imagination was constantly at work reshaping and augmenting his material, they invariably threatened to evolve into novellas and even full-scale novels. In fact, nearly all of his novels were initially envisioned as short stories.

His budding career, however, was temporarily brought to a halt when, in December 1877, he was informed that, as a Russian subject, he could no longer serve on French vessels. Without a livelihood, he remained in Marseilles, where he lived beyond his means and then tried to recoup his losses by gambling. The ensuing financial crisis led him to attempt suicide. (Conrad himself always insisted that the scar on his left breast was from a gunshot wound received in a duel, a claim perpetuated in his pseudo-autobiographical novel The Arrow of Gold [1919], which consists of heavily embellished memories of his Marseilles period, including romantic stories of gun running for the Spanish Carlist cause and a torrid love affair.

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