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by Emmanuel Bove ; translated by Alyson Waters

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-59017-832-4
Publisher: New York Review Books

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.