cover image Henri Duchemin and His Shadows

Henri Duchemin and His Shadows

Emmanuel Bove, trans. from the French by Alyson Waters. New York Review Books, $14.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-59017-832-4

The prolific and melancholic Bove (My Friends) wrote all manner of stories, fragments, and novellas before WWII, when he was forced into Algerian exile, from the off-the-cuff confessional to the darkly weird, but this collection features just a taste of these. The title story covers more in its short duration than most novels: urged by his friends to commit suicide on Christmas Eve, Monsieur Duchemin is inexplicably befriended by a nameless man who enlists him in murdering a prominent banker with a hammer, after which Duchemin undertakes a bizarre quest for redemption. Subsequent stories such as “Another Friend,” concerning a brief, passionate friendship between a pauper and a rich man, and “Night Visit,” in which a despondent young groom begs a friend to verify his wife’s disloyalty, are a vivifying crash course in Bove’s obsessions: suicide, friendship, adultery, and the sudden reversal of fortune. Unfortunately, the remaining stories don’t do much to expand on these, and dated pieces of histrionic misogyny such as “Is It a Lie?” haven’t aged well. A longer collection or a full novel might have done more for literary Francophiles and casual readers alike; but that’s not to say this book isn’t abound with mind-bendingly odd sentences that only Bove could write, such as, “She was so beautiful that he soon confused her in his mind with the woman he had dreamed of marrying his whole life,” and, “The stranger was almost a father to me.” (Aug.)