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Old 08-22-2016   #81
xylokopos
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Re: L'école belge de l'étrange

Quote Originally Posted by Gnosticangel View Post
Wakefield Press presents some amazing work through rare english translations, (though I sometimes wish that they would publish physically larger editions). I am currently enjoying their recent publication of "The Cathedral of Mist," by Paul Willems, which is wonderful.

Willems_Mist
I just ordered it. I had to. The description on the site reminded me of another collection of short stories I have often raved about here, Ende's Mirror in the Mirror.

It didn't hurt that it was 34% off in the Book Depository, either.

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Old 10-22-2016   #82
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Re: L'école belge de l'étrange

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The architect V. renounced the use of stone. After years of meditation, he built a cathedral of mist.
The cathedral is "hazy but precise" in its architecture, a magnificent edifice set in a forest clearing, wavering gently in the still air, scattering in heavy storms and taking shape again at dusk, when the wind falls; and so is the writing of Paul Willems, etherial and accurate, a sustained exercise to build out of fleeting impessions dredged up from deep memory - "the house inside me" - and to freeze the moment before it disappears into nothingness.

In the six short stories and the two essays contained in this phenomenal collection, Willems, a playwright with an unfailing sense of perfect mise-en-scène, paints indelible images of surreal beauty and heartbreaking melancholy - a church of fog and warm air, the façades of old buildings in the waterfront of Antwerp, the railings in their balconies encrusted with salt, boarding houses for little girs in Heaven, a massive bed in the middle of a forest on a winter's night, an old train traveling through the still and frozen Russian landscape; and words are strained and pulled to their limits in order to hold up these images of a world filled with terrible yearning. Willems explains in his essay, Writing, that

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...words, once set down and fettered by syntax, lose their aroma, their lightness, their joy and their sorrow, everything in them that delights and disturbs us when we haven't yet uttered them. Blind nightingales will sing in cages, but words fall silent and take ill.
And yet this futility remains necessary and writing is essential in capturing "the vast, cruel and wondrous spectacle of the moment". Willems remembers and mythologises journeys taken and people met and his fictional compositions are autobiographical in a way that is strongly reminiscent of Bruno Schulz. Unlike de Ghelderode, for whom luxuriant nature is festering, diseased and hostile, the landscapes of Paul Willems remind one of Chinese ink and wash paintings: the sandbanks in the Scheldt estuary, the high plains of Central Asia, his own house and garden, are all given with minimalist accuracy, with a simplicity of intersecting lines and the play of dark and gray...and in every case there is this desire, this reaching towards a horizon where lines meet and fade to nothing.

On the strengh of The Cathedral of Mist alone, Willems is rightly considered to be the last of the great Belgian fantasists. Mention should also be made of Edward Gauvin's fluid and beautiful translation. This is one of the best collections I have read. I recommend it without hesitation.

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Old 10-22-2016   #83
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Re: L'école belge de l'étrange

Thank you for writing down your thoughts about the book, xylokopos. I was planning to reserve some time for reading Willems next year, but after your post I am not sure I will be able to wait so long. Impressive.

"In my imagination, I have a small apartment in a small town where I live alone and gaze through a window at a wintry landscape." -- TL
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Last edited by yellowish haze; 10-22-2016 at 07:57 PM..
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Old 03-08-2017   #84
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Re: L'école belge de l'étrange

Posted to Diseased Gardens:
A Small Jean Ray Dossier consisting of,
1, An interview with Jean Ray;
2, a mini essay on the Jean Ray pseudonyms, plus a short John Flanders story;
3, a rare and interesting Jean Ray story, "The Outer Edge of Darkness"

Find here:
Contents | diseased gardens.com
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Old 03-19-2017   #85
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Re: L'école belge de l'étrange

Thank you for these, Hieronimo. This is great material!

I just came across the following review of the House of Oracles by Thomas Owen which I missed so far:
thomas owen, the house of oracles. | themenaceofobjects

I think this is well-worth reading.

"In my imagination, I have a small apartment in a small town where I live alone and gaze through a window at a wintry landscape." -- TL
Confusio Linguarum - visionary literature, translingualism & bibliophily
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Old 09-10-2017   #86
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Re: L'école belge de l'étrange

I was in a Belge state of mind today and came across this remarkably good adaptation of Bruges-la-Morte on YouTube. English subtitles, and gives a wonderful idea of what a haunting town Bruges is.

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