Apr. 16th, 2017

shewhomust: (bibendum)
All the bells were ringing as we set off this morning for one last visit in Ghent, to the Sunday book market on the Ajuinlei; and somewhere a pipe band was just audible above the clamour of the bells, which tells you something about bagpipes.

I wasn't hoping for much in the way of English books, even though we had found English very widely spoken in the city. I did hope that, books being books,some French might have seeped into this very Flemish territory. As always, I was underestimating the extent to which Belgium is divided by its two languages: there were a few French books, but not as many as there were English. One stall, specialising in old comics - collectable old, and being checked through by a man with a grey pony tail - had adjacent cases for 'Tintin' and 'Kuifje' (both the same person).

So I ended up buying more than I had planned. First off, Photographic Pilgrim's Progress, being the memoirs of Charles Duncan ("one of the best known and most beloved veterans of photography", says the jacket copy), published in 1954. Then we came to a stall offering books at €2, 3 for €5, so when I had picked up a collection of Zelazny short stories (it's called The Doors of his Face, the Lamps of his Mouth, but the back says, in block caps "INCLUDES STORIES NOT IN THE ORIGINAL EDITION", so what's a girl to do?) and Maurice Maeterlinck's La Vie des Abeilles (because I had discovered that that tree that failed to light up should have been displaying blue birds in homage to Maeterlinck, who was born in Ghent, and besides, how could I resist a book of which Sam Goldwyn once said: "My God! The hero is a bee!"?), Roger contributed a Colin Dexter Inspector Morse, and our threesome was complete.

Serre d'ennui

One last Maeterlinck moment: Roger pointed out to me that the building across the river had a poem inscribed in a blank doorway, and we could make out the title, La Serre d'ennui. And here it is, in the original, and in an English translation which is accurate rather than atmospheric.

ETA: How could I have forgotten?

That mission accomplished, it was time to move on. We have left Flanders, and after a very pleasant drive through the forests of the Ardennes, we are in French speaking Wallonia, in Bouillon, with a view of the castle from our hotel bedroom.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
At the last bookstall of the market, up by the bridge, there was a fine collection of English-language poetry. In among the Yeats, and the Rattle Bag, there was Ode to Bully Beef, a collection of unofficial poetry of the Second World War, edited by Rosie Serdiville and John Sadler; Rosie Serdiville is a friend of a friend of ours, whom we know well enough to stop and chat when we run into her, but we had not expected to run into her here. We were discussing this with sufficient animation for the stallholder to notice, and comment that we had come a long way to buy English poetry. We said nice things about her stock of English poetry, which deserved them, and she repeated them to her partner, who, it turned out, was English - and not just English but with roots in County Durham: his father was from Stanley and his mother from - Tow Law, I think it was. They had visited Durham a few years ago, and enjoyed Beamish .

What Durham and Ghent have in common is that they are small cities with big universities, but they were positive about this. The students, they said, kept the town lively: compare it Bruges, which is beautiful but closes down at 8.00 pm. Though I note that they don't live in the city, but just outside; we had heard Ghent's vibrant night life from our city center hotel, and were less enthusiastic. I'm not sure how far the similarities go, either - but interesting, all the same.

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