A lasting impression

Monday, July 25th, 2016

  • Lunging out from his nineteenth-century tomb, Georges Rodenbach clutches a rose as he reaches into the present day in an effort to escape the loneliness of being forgotten. The Belgium poet, playwright, and journalist enjoyed fame for his work. His 1892 novel ‘Bruges-la-Morte’ was so successful it was translated in seven languages. Yet today how many of us have heard of Rodenbach?

    His grave, at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, is certainly noteworthy. I spotted it today on another walk around this vast and amazing cemetery. As I stood looking at the grave, I wondered who Georges Rodenbach was, and what kind of man would choose such a strange tombstone.

    I guessed he might be a comedian, or perhaps a magician, rising from the grave as a final surprise. But when I later ‘googled’ his name, one of the first results was a website called Writers No One Reads, while another website listed him among forgotten poets of the first world war.

    It was then when I wondered if perhaps Rodenbach, or whoever it was who designed his eerie tombstone, had an inkling that his fame would be fleeting, that history would eventually overlook him. I wondered if that was the reason he lunges from his final resting place, emerging from the forgotten with the rose in his hand. It’s certainly effective at catching the attention of the casual visitor wandering among the resting souls. Though it seems, from the little research that I’ve done, that today Rodenbach might be better known for his tombstone, rather than for the words he once crafted.