Looking to cozy up in a comfy chair with a good story? Now out in Tin House #58, their annual Winter Reading issue, is Belgian fabulist Paul Willem’s tale “The Cathedral of Mist,” in amazing company with fiction by Steven Millhauser and Shirley Jackson, an interview with Robert Stone, and Rachel Monroe’s appreciation of May Sarton!!
Here’s an excerpt from the story, which is available in is entirety online:
One day the architect V., who was very well-known in Belgium before the First World War, grew tired of concrete and began to hate granite. He had noticed that no matter what one did, stone was stone. Stubborn, it fulfilled only its destiny, which was to endure. It focused its immense, compact strength inward, on itself. And pitted all its inertia against those who tried to distract it by moving or carving it. It loathed the verve church spires lent it. It abhorred all winged things. It suffered in the wind. And should one raise it to a temple pediment, it seized every chance it had to return to the earth. That is why columns topple and even the most lasting monuments slowly sink into the soil, where stone reunites with its beloved darkness.
The architect V. renounced the use of stone. After years of meditation, he built a cathedral of mist.
Willems (1912-1997) belongs to the final generation of great Francophone Belgian fantasists of Flemish descent. He published his first novel, Everything Here is Real, in 1941. Three more novels and two story collections from his later days bracket his career as a playwright, for which he was best known in his lifetime. Donald Friedman’s translation of his late novella The Drowned Land was nominated for the Dublin IMPAC Literary Award and published with Suzanne Burgoyne’s translation of his play La Vita Brève in an edition from Peter Lang in 1994. I have published his work in
- Tin House #50: “The Horse’s Eye” (not available online)
- Subtropics #13: “Cherepish” (not available online)
- Scheherezade’s Bequest #15: “The Colors of the World”