The Cathedral of Mist

by: Paul Willems

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The Cathedral of Mist by Paul Willems / ISBN 9781939663184 / small paperback with flaps / Wakefield Press

There are a lot of reasons to love this (including the expert translation by Edward Gauvin), but the illustrations by Bette Burgoyne put it over the top (once featured on 50 Watts).

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First published in French in 1983, The Cathedral of Mist is a collection of stories from the last of the great Francophone Belgian fantasists: distilled tales of distant journeys, buried memories and impossible architecture. Described here are the emotionally disturbed architectural plan for a palace of emptiness; the experience of snowfall in a bed in the middle of a Finnish forest; the memory chambers that fuel the marvelous futility of the endeavor to write; the beautiful woodland church, built of warm air currents and fog, scattering in storms and taking renewed shape at dusk, that gives this book its title. The Cathedral of Mist offers the sort of ethereal narratives that might have come from the pen of a sorrowful, distinctly Belgian Italo Calvino. It is accompanied by two meditative essays on reading and writing that fall in the tradition of Marcel Proust and Julien Gracq.

Paul Willems (1912–97) published his first novel, Everything Here Is Real, in 1941. Three more novels and, toward the end of his life, two collections of short stories bracketed his career as a playwright.