An elegant translation of dark, brooding, and disturbing little narratives.



Shadows and shadow selves do indeed pervade the six stories in this collection, brought together in English for the first time.

French novelist Bove died in 1945, and each of his meticulously crafted stories discloses a quasi-surrealism with dashes of Poe, Kafka, and Dostoyevsky. In “Night Crime,” the first and one of the longest, we find Henry Duchemin confronting his shadow self. He lives his life on the edge of poverty and at the beginning of the story finds himself, shabby and discontented, in a  Parisian cafe on a rainy Christmas Eve. A fellow customer, "[a] woman in a damp fur coat," notices his unhappiness and challenges Henri to kill himself. This idea of self-destruction is picked up again when Henri meets a man with no name who asks that he coldbloodedly kill a rich banker (obviously a projection of Henri himself, who had earlier expressed a desire for riches). Henri remains both intrigued and tormented by his act of murder when, from an old man, he learns the life lesson that “to redeem yourself, you must suffer.” Bove once again focuses on outsiders in “Another Friend,” in which a stranger, Monsieur Boudier-Martel, befriends the narrator, who lives on the margins of society and feels he has no friends whatsoever. Eventually this “radiant day” becomes one of sadness, however, when the narrator discovers that Boudier-Martel is enamored not of the narrator per se but of those in his social condition. Bove also shows himself a master of marginalization and fragmented relationships, as in “Night Visit,” in which Jean, the narrator, tries to help his friend Paul sort out why his wife is leaving him.

An elegant translation of dark, brooding, and disturbing little narratives.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59017-832-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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