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Alexander's Bridge

Alexander's Bridge

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Alexander's Bridge

4/5 (9 Bewertungen)
95 Seiten
1 Stunde
Jan 1, 2010


In Willa Cather's first novel, "Alexander's Bridge", Construction engineer and world-renowned builder of bridges, Bartley Alexander strays from his wife Winifred to resume his acquaintance with former lover Hilda Burgoyne. The consequence of infidelity is examined in this classic romantic novel.
Jan 1, 2010

Über den Autor

Willa Sibert Cather (December 7, 1873[2] – April 24, 1947 was an American writer who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, including O Pioneers! (1913), The Song of the Lark (1915), and My Ántonia (1918). In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours (1922), a novel set during World War I. (Wikipedia)

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Alexander's Bridge - Willa Sibert Cather



A Book Publishing

Print ISBN 13: 978-1-4209-2949-2

Ebook ISBN 13: 978-1-59625-479-4

This edition copyright © 2011

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Late one brilliant April afternoon Professor Lucius Wilson stood at the head of Chestnut Street, looking about him with the pleased air of a man of taste who does not very often get to Boston. He had lived there as a student, but for twenty years and more, since he had been Professor of Philosophy in a Western university, he had seldom come East except to take a steamer for some foreign port. Wilson was standing quite still, contemplating with a whimsical smile the slanting street, with its worn paving, its irregular, gravely colored houses, and the row of naked trees on which the thin sunlight was still shining. The gleam of the river at the foot of the hill made him blink a little, not so much because it was too bright as because he found it so pleasant. The few passers-by glanced at him unconcernedly, and even the children who hurried along with their school-bags under their arms seemed to find it perfectly natural that a tall brown gentleman should be standing there, looking up through his glasses at the gray housetops.

The sun sank rapidly; the silvery light had faded from the bare boughs and the watery twilight was setting in when Wilson at last walked down the hill, descending into cooler and cooler depths of grayish shadow. His nostril, long unused to it, was quick to detect the smell of wood smoke in the air, blended with the odor of moist spring earth and the saltiness that came up the river with the tide. He crossed Charles Street between jangling street cars and shelving lumber drays, and after a moment of uncertainty wound into Brimmer Street. The street was quiet, deserted, and hung with a thin bluish haze. He had already fixed his sharp eye upon the house which he reasoned should be his objective point, when he noticed a woman approaching rapidly from the opposite direction. Always an interested observer of women, Wilson would have slackened his pace anywhere to follow this one with his impersonal, appreciative glance. She was a person of distinction he saw at once, and, moreover, very handsome. She was tall, carried her beautiful head proudly, and moved with ease and certainty. One immediately took for granted the costly privileges and fine spaces that must lie in the background from which such a figure could emerge with this rapid and elegant gait. Wilson noted her dress, too,—for, in his way, he had an eye for such things,—particularly her brown furs and her hat. He got a blurred impression of her fine color, the violets she wore, her white gloves, and, curiously enough, of her veil, as she turned up a flight of steps in front of him and disappeared.

Wilson was able to enjoy lovely things that passed him on the wing as completely and deliberately as if they had been dug-up marvels, long anticipated, and definitely fixed at the end of a railway journey. For a few pleasurable seconds he quite forgot where he was going, and only after the door had closed behind her did he realize that the young woman had entered the house to which he had directed his trunk from the South Station that morning. He hesitated a moment before mounting the steps. Can that, he murmured in amazement,—can that possibly have been Mrs. Alexander?

When the servant admitted him, Mrs. Alexander was still standing in the hallway. She heard him give his name, and came forward holding out her hand.

Is it you, indeed, Professor Wilson? I was afraid that you might get here before I did. I was detained at a concert, and Bartley telephoned that he would be late. Thomas will show you your room. Had you rather have your tea brought to you there, or will you have it down here with me, while we wait for Bartley?

Wilson was pleased to find that he had been the cause of her rapid walk, and with her he was even more vastly pleased than before. He followed her through the drawing-room into the library, where the wide back windows looked out upon the garden and the sunset and a fine stretch of silver-colored river. A harp-shaped elm stood stripped against the pale-colored evening sky, with ragged last year's birds' nests in its forks, and through the bare branches the evening star quivered in the misty air. The long brown room breathed the peace of a rich and amply guarded quiet. Tea was brought in immediately and placed in front of the wood fire. Mrs. Alexander sat down in a high-backed chair and began to pour it, while Wilson sank into a low seat opposite her and took his cup with a great sense of ease and harmony and comfort.

You have had a long journey, haven't you? Mrs. Alexander asked, after showing gracious concern about his tea. And I am so sorry Bartley is late. He's often tired when he's late. He flatters himself that it is a little on his account that you have come to this Congress of Psychologists.

It is, Wilson assented, selecting his muffin carefully; and I hope he won't be tired tonight. But, on my own account, I'm glad to have a few moments alone with you, before Bartley comes. I was somehow afraid that my knowing him so well would not put me in the way of getting to know you.

That's very nice of you. She nodded at him above her cup and smiled, but there was a little formal tightness in her tone which had not been there when she greeted him in the hall.

Wilson leaned forward. "Have I said something awkward? I live very far out of the world, you know. But I didn't mean that you would exactly fade dim, even if Bartley were here."

Mrs. Alexander laughed relentingly. Oh, I'm not so vain! How terribly discerning you are.

She looked straight at Wilson, and he felt that this quick, frank glance brought about an understanding between them.

He liked everything about her, he told himself, but he particularly liked her eyes; when she looked at one directly for a moment they were like a glimpse of fine windy sky that may bring all sorts of weather.

Since you noticed something, Mrs. Alexander went on, it must have been a flash of the distrust I have come to feel whenever I meet any of the people who knew Bartley when he was a boy. It is always as if they were talking of someone I had never met. Really, Professor Wilson, it would seem that he grew up among the strangest people. They usually say that he has turned out very well, or remark that he always was a fine fellow. I never know what reply to make.

Wilson chuckled and leaned back in his chair, shaking his left foot gently. I expect the fact is that we none of us knew him very well, Mrs. Alexander. Though I will say for myself that I was always confident he'd do something extraordinary.

Mrs. Alexander's shoulders gave a slight movement, suggestive of impatience. Oh, I should think that might have been a safe prediction. Another cup, please?

Yes, thank you. But predicting, in the case of boys, is not so easy as you might imagine, Mrs. Alexander. Some get a bad hurt early and lose their courage; and some never get a fair wind. Bartley—he dropped his chin on the back of his long hand and looked at her admiringly—Bartley caught the wind early, and it has sung in his sails ever since.

Mrs. Alexander sat looking into the fire with intent preoccupation, and Wilson studied her half-averted face. He liked the suggestion of stormy possibilities in the proud curve of her lip and nostril. Without that, he reflected, she would be too

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  • (4/5)
    I think I have read all of Cather's other fiction--Death Comes for the Archbishop on 8 Nov 1946, My Antonia on 5 Aug 1951, One of Ours on 11 May 1958, The Professor's House on 1 Sep 1970, O Pioneers! on 7 sep 1970, A Lost Lady on 13 Sep 1970, The Song of the Lark on 19 Sep 1970, My Mortal Enemy on 19 Sep 1970, Shadows on the Rock on 20 Sep 1970, Lucy Gayheart on 20 Sep 1970, and Sapphira and the Slave Girl on 21 Sep 1970,, so I thought I should read this one. It is her first publlshed novel and I did not expect too much from ii, but was surprised that it did arouse and hold my interest, with its hints of Henry James-like characterization. and its play on the conflict which an affair does, and properly so, bring to a principled person. The denouement was, I suppose, the only possible one, though I had hoped for a more innovative one. I am glad I read the book.
  • (3/5)
    This is a perfect example of why I love being in this bookclub; I finally get to read an author who has been on my tbr list for ever! I was thrilled to sit down and read this, Cather's first book. The writing has a natural, beautiful flow and the book was easy to read. The plot is quite simple, one of a man having an affair and the tortures it brings to all concerned. It is a story of overwhelming love, the wife for the husband, the mistress for the husband, the husband for the wife and the husband for his youth. The mistress brings the husband his youth and he feels joy with her, meaning her no harm but his love is obviously not as obsessive as hers is for him. This brings him deep guilt for what he is doing to both his wife and his mistress. I have no sympathy for adulterers and in the end I feel he hurts them both by his actions. The mistress being equally at fault for her own hurt and in the end Alexander receives his divine justice whilst leaving both women a little scarred for having known him. I can't say the topic was my favourite; I'm not exactly into love triangles and I've always been interested in reading Cather because of her pioneer fiction which is a theme I am greatly interested in. However, I found the book entirely readable and the writing superb and am confident that I must get to O Pioneers! in the not too distant future.
  • (4/5)
    Willa Cather’s first novel, published in 1912 just one year before her breakout work ‘O Pioneers!’, shows all of her promise, and is excellent in its own right. Cather is said to have been influenced by Henry James, but I think the novel reflects more of another in James’s circle, Edith Wharton, possibly because of her feminine viewpoint. At the same time, Cather at 39 years old channels the thoughts of a middle-aged man who is torn between a loving wife and an affair with an exciting woman from his past. It’s a brilliant psychological study, and she uses just the right amount of restraint while telling the story. I also liked the little touches she includes from the era about things like meals, ocean travel, and theater-going. This edition from Simon & Schuster was nice as well, as it included a number of large black and white photographs from the period, to help set the tone.Quotes:On affairs:“’I am not a man who can live two lives,’ he went on feverishly. ‘Each life spoils the other. I get nothing but misery out of either. The world is all there, just as it used to be, but I can’t get at it any more. There is this deception between me and everything.’”“It seems that a man is meant to live only one life in this world. When he tries to live a second, he develops another nature. I feel as if a second man had been grafted onto me. At first he seemed only a pleasure-loving simpleton, of whose company I was rather ashamed, and who I used to hide under my coat when I walked the Embankment, in London. But now he is strong and sullen, and he is fighting for his life at the cost of mine. That is his one activity: to grow strong. No creature ever wanted so much to live. Eventually, I suppose, he will absorb me altogether. Believe me, you will hate me then.”On beauty:“He liked everything about her, he told himself, but he particularly liked her eyes; when she looked at one directly for a moment they were like a glimpse of fine windy sky that may bring all sorts of weather.”“He leaned forward and beamed felicitations as warmly as Mainhall himself when, at the end of the play, she came again and again before the curtain, panting a little and flushed, her eyes dancing and her eager, nervous little mouth tremulous with excitement.”“She was sitting on the edge of her chair, as if she had alighted there for a moment only. Her primrose satin gown seemed like a soft sheath for her slender, supple figure, and its delicate color suited her white Irish skin and brown hair. Whatever she wore, people felt the charm of her active, girlish body with its slender hips and quick, eager shoulders.”“He was looking at her round, slender figure, as she stood by the piano, turning over a pile of music, and he felt the energy in every line of it.”On middle age:“He found himself living exactly the kind of life he had determined to escape. What, he asked himself, did he want with these genial honors and substantial comforts? Hardships and difficulties he had carried lightly; overwork had not exhausted him; but this dead calm of middle life which confronted him, - of that he was afraid. He was not ready for it. It was like being buried alive. In his youth he would not have believed such a thing possible. The one thing he had really wanted all his life was to be free; and there was still something unconquered in him, something besides the strong work-horse that his profession had made of him.”On transience:“Since then Bartley had always thought of the British Museum as the ultimate repository of mortality, where all the dead things in the world were assembled to make one’s hour of youth the more precious. One trembled lest before he got out it might somehow escape him, lest he might drop the glass from over-eagerness and see it shivered on the stone floor at his feet. How one hid his youth under his coat and hugged it! And how good it was to turn one’s back upon all that vaulted cold, to take Hilda’s arm and hurry out of the great door and down the steps into the sunlight among the pigeons – to know that the warm and vital thing within him was still there and had not been snatched away to flush Caesar’s lean cheek or to feed the veins of some bearded Assyrian king. They in their day had carried the flaming liquor, but to-day was his!”“I’m not tired at all. I was just wondering how people can ever die. Why did you remind me of the mummy? Life seems the strongest and most indestructible thing in the world. Do you really believe that all those people rushing about down there, going to good dinners and clubs and theatres, will be dead some day, and not care about anything? I don’t believe it, and I know I shan’t die, ever! You see, I feel too – too powerful!”
  • (4/5)
    Beautiful example of Cather's emerging style in her writing, this first novel was disavowed by her in later years. That's too bad, because it is a simple story told in a simple manner in simply beautiful prose.
  • (4/5)
    At the end of my first year at university, the day after the final exam, I paid my first visit to the literature shelves in the basement of the university library. There were only a few shelves, because I was at university that – at the time – had no arts faculty. Those shelves didn’t look entirely promising, but there was a small run of green Virago Modern Classics. Half a dozen books by the same author; an author I hadn’t heard of before.That was my introduction to Willa Cather.I picked up the smallest book first – ‘My Mortal Enemy’ – just to see if I liked her. I loved her, I read all of those green books, I tracked down all of the others …..That was a long time ago, and I’ve been thinking that maybe I should re-read Willa Cather’s novels is chronological order for quite some time. I must confess that I didn’t really remember ‘Alexander’s Bridge’, Willa Cather’s first novel, from 1912; but I did remember that she hadn’t written a book that she didn’t like.Now that I’ve read it again I have to sat that it isn’t her finest work. The story is a little underdeveloped, a little contrived; the writing, though lovely, is sometimes a little less than subtle. But it is a very accomplished and very readable first novel. Her understanding of character, her skill in evoking places was there; I could see so many signs of the fine novelist she would quickly become.The story is set not in the American west that she is most associated with, but in Boston, in New York, and in London. She catches those places very well, and she sets up her story beautifully.Professor Lucius Wilson arrives in Boston to visit a former pupil. His hostess, Mrs Winifred Alexander, arrives home just before him and he pauses to observe her:“Always an interested observer of women, Wilson would have slackened his pace anywhere to follow this one with his impersonal, appreciative glance. She was a person of distinction he saw at once, and, moreover, very handsome. She was tall, carried her beautiful head proudly, and moved with ease and certainty. One immediately took for granted the costly privileges and fine spaces that must lie in the background from which such a figure could emerge with this rapid gait.”Mrs. Alexander explains that her husband is working late, and she is so hospitable, so warm, so charming, that Wilson is almost disappointed when her husband arrives and she leaves the two men alone to talk.Bartley Alexander has been working on a major bridge in Canada. The bridge has the greatest span of its type, it will be an extraordinary achievement, it will place him at the pinnacle of his profession. But he is unsettled:“After all, life doesn’t offer a man much. You work like the devil and think you’re getting on, and suddenly you discover that you’ve only been getting yourself tied up. A million details drink you dry. Your life keeps going for things you don’t want, and all the while you are being built alive into a social structure you don’t care a rap about. I sometimes wonder what sort of chap I’d have been if I hadn’t been this sort; I want to go and live out his potentialities, too.”It’s understandable: Bartley feels that pressure of responsibilities, he misses the energy and vitality of his youth, and he is aware that he is ageing and that his life is finite.When he visits London he catches a glimpse of Hilda Burgoyne, an Irish actress who he had loved years earlier, and he starts to walk the streets near her home:“He started out upon these walks half guiltily, with a curious longing and expectancy which were wholly gratified by solitude. Solitude, but not solitariness; for he walked shoulder to shoulder with a shadowy companion – not little Hilda Burgoyne, by any means, but someone vastly dearer to him that she had ever been – his own young self …..” Inevitably, the two meet. They rekindle their relationship is resumed and Bartley finds himself emotionally torn between his perfect wife and his great lost love.Willa Cather draws the love triangle so well, and with such subtlety. I understood Bartley’s emotions and I appreciated that both women – one aware of the other and one not – loved him and wanted the best for him.They understand and accept the realities of life and their situation, in a way he can’t quite.That side of the story was brilliantly executed; the way that the older side of the story played out though, the story of the bridge-builder- was a little contrived and a little predictable.But the telling of the tale was lovely; the depth and detail of the characterisation, and the way that it was woven , made it a joy to read; and I am so, so pleased that I have started my second journey through Willa Cather’s novels.
  • (5/5)
    I read this book years ago and did not recognize that fact until I was 20 or so pages in. Unlike the first time, I savored every single word. Cather's writing is akin to experiencing ascending diamond tipped ocean waves as they glide to the shore on a warm and restful day; mesmerizing. The story was more interesting to me at 57 than it was many years ago, in it's humanness and her main character, Bartley Alexander. I was surprised at the compassion that her story evoked toward Bartley and in treading into a world and time that I've been charmed by only in old films. I have read reviews on this book, her first published novel, and I am relieved to not be tethered by narrow viewpoints that put every book through a series of tests and report on where it did and didn't meet the collective ideal. My review is simply experiential and based on the sheer delight in revisiting and being touched by a story well told.
  • (4/5)
    Brilliant examination of illicit love between Bartley Alexander, a civil engineer and builder of bridges, and Hilda Burgoyne, a London actress and his former lover, now renewed. Alexander is building the first suspension bridge in Canada, aware that price constraints are forcing him to flirt dangerously with inadequate construction materials and techniques. His work carries him from his home in Boston where he lives happily with his devoted and talented pianist wife, Winifred, whom he loves deeply. A visit from his favorite former teacher, Professor Wilson, hints at what is to come. He says about his one-time student: "'Yet I always used to feel that there was a weak spot where some day strain would tell. Even after you began to climb, I stood down in the crowd and watched you with — well, not with confidence. The more dazzling the front you presented, the higher your facade rose, the more I expected to see a big crack zigzagging from top to bottom,' — he indicated its course in the air with his forefinger, — 'then a crash and clouds of dust."This is exactly what happens, as by nature, Barley is unable to live a double life and unable to quit either woman he loves. His bridge “into the future” that he traverses between his wife in America and his lover in England snaps and his suspension bridge in Canada collapses while he’s standing on it, sending him to his death.Very tightly written novella in which every word counts. The sketching of character is sharp and deft and true and the descriptions of scene - especially weather and cities – are vivid and metaphoric. It’s nice to be reminded how a writer one last read in high school still commands such power over the imagination 50 years later. Cather is as good as Edith Wharton or Henry James.
  • (2/5)
    Everyone has to start somewhere. I think the most well written feature of the copy I have is the preface written by Cather in which she basically distances herself from the book. She states, "Alexander's Bridg was my fist novel, and does not deal with the kind of subject-matter in which I now find myself most at home." That feels obvious as one reads the story - characters that appear to be caricatures, characters without depth, stilted and unconvincing dialogue...the list goes on. The book is mercifully short. It is hard to imagine that the writer represented with this story eventually wrote Death Comes for the Archbishop and My Antonia. The beauty and grace of those books seems so distant from Alexander's Bridge. It is an interesting contrast to her other works - and a reasonable read for a completist, but it is a far cry from the great writing one expects when the name Willa Cather is mentioned.
  • (4/5)
    In this her first published novel, Willa Cather is still relying highly on the Jamesian settings and style. But the story is an interesting one that examines the role of the artist and the artistic process, metaphorically
  • (4/5)
    First published 101 years ago, Cather's first book shows her promise as a writer. It is also an intriguing story, fast-paced, and beautifully written.
  • (4/5)
    Really excellent psychological novella about a successful and gifted man whose dual life demons haunt him.
  • (4/5)
    Alexander's Bridge was Willa Cather's first book, published in 1912. Alexander Bartley is a bridge builder who has acquired international fame for his ability to build the worlds most daring and advanced bridges. But he doesn't like the attention he receives and yearns for a simpler life. He is married to an intelligent woman who is an heiress and American socialite. They live in Boston and he enjoys their life together although he must be away from home often.When he runs across a former flame in London, he becomes involved with her again, agonizing over the unfairness to both women. Juggling work on a bridge in Canada that is not going well, his wife in Boston, and his lover in London, becomes more than Alexander can cope with and he begins to unravel.I like that Cather made all of the characters, including Alexander, sympathetic. Although written over 100 years ago, it could easily be written for the current time. Even in this first book the writing is beautiful. Her skills will grow and her next book, O! Pioneers, will be more nuanced. Still, this novella is well worth reading.