Extract from Michael Mitchell's translation

Georges Rodenbach's Bruges-la-Morte

Every evening Hugues retraced the same route, following the line of the quais. His gait was uncertain, slightly hunched already, even though he was only forty. But widowhood had brought an early autumn. His hair was receding, with a copious scattering of grey ash. His faded eyes were fixed on a distant point, a very distant point, beyond life itself.

And how melancholy Bruges was, too, during those late afternoons! That was how he liked the town! It was for its melancholy that he had chosen it and had gone to live there after the great catastrophe. In those happy times when he was travelling round with his wife, living as his fancy took him, a somewhat cosmopolitan life, in Paris, abroad, by the sea, he had passed through the town with her, but its profound melancholy had not had the power to affect their joy. Later on however, once he was alone, he had remembered Bruges and had immediately and instinctively known he must settle there. A mysterious equation gradually established itself. He needed a dead town to correspond to his dead wife. His deep mourning demanded such a setting. Life would only be bearable for him there. It was instinct that had brought him here. He would leave the world elsewhere to its bustle and buzz, to its glittering balls, its welter of voices. He needed infinite silence and an existence that was so monotonous it almost failed to give him the sense of being alive.