Sunday, January 27, 2013

Madame Verona comes Down the Hill - Dimitri Verhulst

The village of Oucwègne, set in the middle of three hills has a fast depleting population. People continuously left the village and the cold to cities and many outside the country to far off lands. Now with merely 40 people, the village is to witness the descend of their legendary beauty "Madame Verona" coming down the hill to the village, where she stayed with her musician husband and later alone in the company of the dogs.

This short novel by Belgian born writer, is a cute little tale of love transcends the lives and death. Verona was married to the composer Potter and was moved in to the hills of the village, for he wanted a silent and isolated place to compose. An attraction for the entire village, people longed for the sight of Verona in her youth. Even after the passing away of her husband, who committed suicide hanging from a tree,(instead of suffering from the diagnosed cancer), she did not come down. Monsieur Potter piled up enough fire woods for the rest of her life before taking his own life. However, to the disappointment of the villagers, Madame Verona did not descend, but continued to stay in their hut in the company of dogs ( she had a special gift of attracting them to her) and teaching Piano lessons to her students. She continue to live in the memory of her beloved husband, wanting to immortalise the love by carving a cello from the same tree which took the life of her husband. She had to wait for 20 years for the wood to mellow and be ready to build the Cello. It isn't the ideal wood for cello and she ignored the warning,

"She played. It sounded ugly, but she played. Faure. The pieces she had played with her lover at the Academy, but now her cheeks weren't red....This was how she would do it every evening from now on. She would sit at the window with legs spread and play the cello. An ensemble that wasn't, a duet with absence. Talking to the non-existent, which might be the only correct definition of very deep prayer."
Now at 82, in a cold February, she finally descend from the hill to a deserted village. She came down, after burning the last piece of wood, her husband had stored for her, with her Cello, the only connecting device to her lover, knowing perfectly well that she will have no strength to go back to her attic.

Verhulst writes beautifully, creating an image that is very poignant and vivid. The language is often poetic and in line with the image that is suiting the narration. The story is simple and somber. and a fast read. Nice little tale of enduring love, poetically written. Good , little book for a quick read.
Madame Verona comes Down the Hill ( 2009)

Dimitri Verhulst ( translated from Dutch by David Colmer )

Portobello Books

145 Pages

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