• The Doomed Bridegroom

The Doomed Bridegroom

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978-1-896300-38-2 | 1998 September | 200 Pages


It is said that one's first love sets the template for all loves to follow. The Doomed Bridegroom narrates one woman’s attraction to rebel heroes, both real and imagined, in Canada, Eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean.

In Myrna's Words

Myrna Kostash discusses writing The Doomed Bridegroom

The Doomed Bridegroom may never have happened had it not been for the persistence of NeWest Press editor Smaro Kamboureli who was intrigued from the get-go: “An erotic memoir about politics? And history? Tell me more.”

The truth is, this “erotic” memoir was originally written as part of a much longer work which, reportage minus the erotics, was eventually published as Bloodlines: A Journey into Eastern Europe (Douglas & McIntyre, 1993). My then agent, Denise Bukowski, had convinced me that the material just didn’t belong – too intimate both in tone and content – but now I was looking for a home for it.

I had the title right away but I didn’t quite know how to describe it. It is a work of creative non-fiction (broad definition: documentary subject matter treated in a literary manner) but what is it about? Like a lot of creative non-fiction, it is about many things at once, in this case: recent and ancient history of certain eastern European countries, the author’s reflections on her relationship with these themes, a travel narrative, and the author’s erotic obsession with eastern European men provoked by the ideal figure of the “doomed bridegroom.” And who or what is the doomed bridegroom? Inspired by my first lover (who is also the opening chapter of Bridegroom), the DB is a revolutionary male on the (doomed) Left who is fated (doomed) never to marry, or never to marry me.

The book is subtitled, somewhat misleadingly, as a memoir. The Press persuaded me that this was to help reviewers and booksellers figure out how to place such a multi-faceted text. But it is not a memoir in the conventional sense; that is, although it’s about me, it’s not really about me. From the very first moment when I played around with the stories, I knew that the reason for introducing such personal subject material was to explore the relationship between my emotional and sexual arousal and a certain kind of history and politics. The personal is in service to the political.

Most of the reviewers “got it,” I’m happy to say, and I was thrilled to be compared to Tosca, by the redoubtable poet and essayist Lynn Crosbie. It has been translated into Serbian as Ukleti Mladozenja, (trans. Vesna Lopicic & Aleksandar Blagojevic, Nis, Serbia, SKC, 2004) and launched at the Belgrade Book Fair in 2005.

I’ve never written like that again. To tell you the truth, I was really pushing the limits of non-fiction, right over the frontier with fiction in some places, and I’ve retreated to more staid forms of the genre. But there are many parts of it which I love reading out loud, just for the thrill of the way-out-there technique: “Look, ma, no hands!”