Schwob (1867-1905) was hardly a central French literary figure of his time--his works were too short and varied and oblique for popular notice--but few major writers of the day were not fascinated and influenced by him. Both Valery and Jarry dedicated works to him (in Jarry's case, Ubu Roi); tribute and attention were paid by Daudet, Claudel, Apollinaire. Selected here for first US/English appearance are some of Schwob's extremely, drily elegant short fictions. The earliest are exquisitely-timed tales of the macabre and strange, done with a tapestry-like thickness: a conversation with an obnoxious skeleton; the title parable, about self-consciousness; a night train meeting its ghostly double alongside it on a parallel track. Each of them strikingly turned at just the right moment, the pieces bring Borges, of our day, to mind. Schwob's historical interest and learning was large, which shows up most outstandingly in parts of his 1896 Imaginary Lives: sketches of the famous and obscure (Empedocles, Petronius, Ucello, a medieval heretic, a whore, a pirate), all done with a crammed abundance of imaginary detail--calm and completely credible. A piquant introduction to a miniaturist of classical suavity and literary-historical importance.