“Was the place to be loved for its life or for its beautiful death?”*

Above: (Wikipedia) “Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a museum and art gallery in Glasgow, Scotland. The construction of Kelvingrove was partly financed by the proceeds of the 1888 International Exhibition held in Kelvingrove Park. The gallery was designed by Sir John W. Simpson and E.J. Milner Allen, and opened in 1901 as the Palace of Fine Arts for the Glasgow International Exhibition held in that year.”

*Alan Hollinghurst wrote for The Guardian of 29 Jan 2005:

“The Belgian writer Georges Rodenbach (1855-98) is identified above all with the city of Bruges…

Bruges-la-Morte (1892) is a very strange book, by turns both crude and subtle. One remembers it mainly for two things: on the one hand its distillation of mood, its poetic evocation of the impalpable, and on the other its bold, even garish fable of the sexual imagination. The two things are distinct, but not separable, and in a sense highlight the inherent paradox of the Symbolist novel: how is the inwardness, the fatalistic paralysis of Symbolist art to be wedded to the demands of narrative? Only perhaps in a story that turns on the fulfilment of dreams and a sense of the foreknown. There are of course many currents within Symbolism: the chaste northern reserve of Khnopff’s paintings and Rodenbach’s poems, with their hinterland of Flemish Catholic piety, coexists with a preoccupation, even in other Belgian artists, with pagan icons of female sexual power; and it is this tradition of morbid eroticism that Rodenbach, perhaps going a little against his natural grain, invokes in the figure of the dancer Jane Scott.

Some contemporary reviewers criticised what they saw as a vein of vulgar sensuality in Rodenbach’s treatment of the affair between Hugues and Jane, which emerges as in essence that between a prostitute and an infatuated punter. But Rodenbach is characteristically discreet about the details of what passes between them; we are not allowed to witness any of those scenes between them that a more sensational kind of novel might have dwelt on. Similarly, Hugues’s married life is recalled at the outset as one of unabating happiness, exploration and sexual fulfilment, but nothing concrete is ever said about what the couple did together, where they lived, or even what his wife was called. A deep privacy veils the very object of his devotions, which we are allowed to see only in symbolic form, in the proliferation of analogies…”

John Quin wrote for the British Medical Journal of 2.2.2008:

“Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931) knew all about doctors and the temptations they face on their travels—in his words there is a “whiff of freedom, danger and adventure.” His 1926 book Traumnovelle(Dream Story)—which Stanley Kubrick made into his 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut—tells the tale of Fridolin, a doctor in Vienna who becomes jealously tormented when he realises that his wife, Albertine, whom he has taken too much for granted, has a secret life. Called out in the middle of an argument, he finds himself on a journey to the end of night, navigating his way through his very own Scylla and Charybdis, a series of hazards that might now be signposted “Warning—GMC ahead.”

He visits a grieving young woman, vulnerably alone. He misreads her excitement as “probable acute bronchitis” and is surprised when she then throws herself at his feet, declaring her love. He narrowly escapes, only to be challenged in the street by some passing young thugs. Refusing to fight, he then worries about his cowardice, which is reinforced when he next encounters a prostitute: “This could end in death he thought, only not quite so quickly!” After dismissing her he meets a friend from medical school, Nachtigall, who did not qualify. Fridolin promptly and insensitively brags about his successful practice and his happy marriage. Nachtigall inadvertently draws him into a meeting of a secret society.

The now costumed Fridolin ignores the warning from a masked beauty to escape the perverse gathering he has gatecrashed. Caught out, he is himself exposed: “Take off your mask!”—a metaphor for his own bourgeois facade, his professional act. He fears exactly what he tells his patients to do every day: to strip, to stand naked for inspection. The woman offers to redeem him, and he escapes. Once he is home at last, his wife tells him of her dream, in which he has been “buying the most gorgeous things that you could find for me.” The danger on the rocks is surely passed. The masked woman, though, turns up at the morgue; Fridolin charges himself with blame for her death. He comes to the realisation that “all this order, balance and security in his life were really an illusion and a lie.” Schnitzler warns us, as Stanley Kubrick would have it, not to keep our eyes wide shut.””.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: