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June 20, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

BRUGES-LA-MORTE by Georges Rodenbach, translated from the French by Thomas Duncan, revised by Terry Hale (Atlas: $12.99; 107 pp., illustrated, paperback original). After the canals linking Bruges to the North Sea silted up during the Renaissance, the town went into decline for nearly five centuries. The vision of an unchanging city "dreaming by its canals" fascinated Decadent writers: Hugh, the central character in Rodenbach's morbid tale of romantic obsession, derives "a melancholy solace from the analogies which he devised between the mournfullness of his own destiny and that of the forsaken canals and churches that instinctively attracted his footsteps." The plot of this influential novel is less interesting than the author's sensual evocations of mood, texture and crumbling architecture.

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