I’ll Come Back Once You’re Dead (Henri Duchemin and His Shadows by Emmanual Bove, trans. Alyson Waters)

Henri_Duchemin_2048x2048Emmanuel Bove’s brooding and spare 1928 story collection, Henri Duchemin and His Shadows (NYRB Classics, 2015) is populated by vulnerable, desperate, lonely men who, seeking purpose, pleasure and, above all, connection—with others and, though not always fully aware of it, with themselves—in dark, damp, empty city streets, manage only to isolate themselves further, to cut themselves off from what few and tenuous connections they have managed to gain. Much of the brilliance in these stories comes from Bove’s genius for Chekhovian selection and distribution of essential images, which serve not only to create or thicken atmosphere (though this they do, and stunningly) but also to cast momentary, often dim, always evocative, sometimes subtly revelatory, light on the dark recesses of characters’ inner lives, as in the following sentence (which is, incidentally, perhaps the noir-est sentence I have ever read) from the collection’s opening (and best) story, “Night Crime,” in which, on Christmas Eve, the book’s title character, at the behest of a total stranger, sets out to kill a man in his sleep and take his money: “The bubbles floating on the puddles did not burst because they did not move.”

Emmanuel Bove, Henri Duchemin and His Shadows. Published by NYRB Classics (2015). 160 pages.

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