About André Bay’s “The Queen of Spades”

I confess I know little, and almost all of it circumstantial, about this atmospheric sketch of a gutter-dwelling worm. It was written by André Bay (1916−2013), for more than four decades a senior editor at Éditions Stock. Among the diverse writers he championed there were Jorge Amado, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Joyce Carol Oates, Thomas Wolfe, Anaïs Nin, and Virginia Woolf. His […]

The Queen of Spades

Night travelers step from the train. I’m freezing. Footsteps hammer the street, shaking white droplets loose. The gutters are streaming. Mice are nibbling on cobwebs. Cows moo in the mist. Everywhere, without speaking a word, they fear the Queen of Spades. She is a woman, a monster, some claim; others maintain she is a gigantic insect; the truth is […]

The Ghoul

Belgian fabulist Jean Muno was earlier profiled in these pages. We are pleased to present “The Ghoul,” a phantasmagorical tale from his first collection, Histoires singulières. He stops. Turns around. A man of middle age, graying, in a hunting vest and fishing boots. Watchful, no doubt worried. He’s alone, and sees no one. No one behind him. […]

Anatomy

I. Our tails shocked us at first. They had grown without warning, without any telling pain or bulge at the base of our spines. We got out of our respective beds on Tuesday morning, each of us recognizing in our early morning haze that something wasn’t quite right. When Martin Dixon saw the pink, pointed […]

Jean Muno’s Unusual Tales: The Silver Age of the Belgian School of the Strange

If the gods of Golden Age of the Belgian School of the Strange are Jean Ray, Thomas Owen, and Franz Hellens, its Silver Age hero is surely Jean Muno. The only child of writer parents, Muno was born Robert Burniaux in a Brussels suburb in 1924 — the year André Breton published the first Surrealist Manifesto, as Muno […]

Echoes III: Making Love in a Fishbowl: Comparing Two Short-Shorts

  “There was a story, probably apocryphal, that James T. Kirk had once said that captaining the Enterprise was like making love in a fish bowl. You couldn’t make a move without someone voicing an opinion about your technique.” ~ David Gerrold, Star Trek: The Next Generation – Encounter At Farpoint So, let’s talk about technique. This week we present, […]

Noël Devaulx: The Secret Master

Noël Devaulx is the secret master of the 20th century French fantastic,” I wrote in 2009. And by that I meant in letters, in essays, in interviews, in conversation, he was the name on everyone’s lips, everyone I was reading and researching. Scratch a French fantasist, find a reference to the former Breton engineer, René Forgeot, whose pseudonym had been […]

Marguerite Cassan: Develop in Darkness

We must refuse madness,” writes Marguerite Cassan at the end of “On the Line,” one of nine stories in Develop in Darkness (À développer dans l’obscurité, Laffont, 1967), and this tension between refusal and embrace, suspicion and abandon, fuels much of the book’s conflict, dividing those whom darkness touches from those who tell their tales. […]