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Henri Duchemin and His Shadows

Henri Duchemin and His Shadows

by Emmanuel Bove, introduction by Donald Breckenridge, translated from the French by Alyson Waters

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Emmanuel Bove was one of the most original writers to come out of twentieth-century France and a popular success in his day. Discovered by Colette, who arranged for the publication of his first novel, My Friends, Bove enjoyed a busy literary career, until the German occupation silenced him. During his lifetime, his novels and stories were admired by Rilke, the surrealists, Camus, and Beckett, who said of him that “more than anyone else he has an instinct for the essential detail.”

Henry Duchemin and His Shadows is the ideal introduction to Bove’s world, with its cast of stubborn isolatoes who call to mind Melville’s Bartleby, Walser’s “little men,” and Rhys’s lost women. Henri Duchemin, the protagonist of the collection’s first story, “Night Crime,” is ambivalent, afraid of appearing ridiculous, desperate for money: in other words, the perfect prey. Criminals, beautiful women, and profiteers threaten the sad young men of Bove’s stories, but worse yet are the interior voices and paranoia that propel them to their fates. The poet of the flophouse and the dive, the park bench and the pigeon’s crumb, Bove is also a deeply empathetic writer for whom no defeat is so great as to silence desire.
by Emmanuel Bove, introduction by Donald Breckenridge, translated from the French by Alyson Waters

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781590178324
Pages: 160
Publication Date:


One of the best novelists to emerge in France during the interwar years . . . a unique, powerful, and insightful stylist.
The Review of Contemporary Fiction

The writing is so clear, so modest, and yet not at all modest. It’s a form of writing that doesn’t exist before him, nor since. It’s like drawing with very clear lines.
—Peter Handke

Shadows and shadow selves do indeed pervade the six stories in this collection, brought together in English for the first time...each of [Bove’s] meticulously crafted stories discloses a quasi-surrealism with dashes of Poe, Kafka, and Dostoyevsky. Bove also shows himself a master of marginalization and fragmented relationships...An elegant translation of dark, brooding, and disturbing little narratives.
Kirkus Reviews

The neat turns of Bove's stories make them engaging little reads...What makes the collection worthwhile is the writing, Bove's deft touch and turns of phrase consistently impressing. These are sad stories, but the craftsmanship behind them makes for considerable reading pleasure.
—M. A. Orthofer, The Complete Review

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