A Raskolnikoff


Changarnier sat down in the only chair in his wretched room. It had been snowing since the previous day and flakes settled on the windowpanes like bugs on a wall.

Changarnier looked at his worn-out shoes. “I’m going to get drenched if I go out,” he thought. “But what will I do if I stay here?” He stood up and lit a cigarette. He wasn’t thirsty and wanted to drink. He wasn’t hungry and wanted to eat. He flicked away his cigarette, for he didn’t want to smoke. A disagreeable smell floated in the air of his room, which though it was closed was cold. “After all, I’m not a zero,” he murmured. He leaned into the mirror. “You, a zero!” As if wanting to be impolite, with an unexpected abruptness he turned his back on his image, and then hesitated a few seconds. He didn’t know what to do. Sit back down? He picked up the cigarette he’d tossed away and lit it. “Where am I?” he asked himself with a smile. In the end, he fell back onto the chair.

He had been dozing for a few minutes when someone knocked on the door.

“What is it?” he asked without thinking.

“It’s me,” a woman’s voice answered.

He opened the door and found himself standing in front of a sickly-looking young woman, who seemed unaware of her state of decay. Changarnier lit his cigarette again and with a smirk examined his new visitor.

“You’re not ashamed, to be so wretchedly poor?” he said. “You’re not ashamed to inspire pity in all those who know you? Don’t you have a shred of dignity in your heart? You live like an animal. A man offers you a drink and you follow him. He takes you to a disgusting room like this one and you follow him. You ask him for nothing before, but afterwards you try to drag money out of the happy sap. And yet you live, and you have the intact body of a human being, with hands with five fingers and feet with five toes. Don’t you understand that there is something in this world aside from the degradation you wallow in? Don’t you understand that there are superior beings?”

The visitor listened to this tirade without surprise and without interrupting. She was dressed in a ragged, dyed rabbit coat, its buttonholes torn. She was wearing a fur hat. Her banal attire gave this woman buried under sarcasm a hint of something even more dramatic. But Changarnier seemed insensitive to this drama. He was following an idée fixe. Poverty, lack of work, and the little interest he had in anything rendered him insensitive to the ills of others.

“You’re a poor wreck.” He continued, “You don’t even have any self-respect. Isn’t that true?”

She nodded in agreement.

“You could work like everyone else. Why don’t you do it? You prefer to beg, to receive threats and blows, to whore yourself to any filthy and disgusting man.”

Violette started to cry. The portrait the young man had painted didn’t surprise her. When she took the trouble to reflect, what he had said was also what she thought of herself. But normally, she preferred not to think.

“You’re right,” she contented herself with saying.

And then something unexpected occurred. Changarnier who, until that moment had acted arrogantly towards Violette, smiled sadly. And he said:

“On the contrary, you’re an angel. You pass through suffering and ugliness while keeping your heart intact. There is nothing more beautiful than this in all the world, and you can tell anyone who wants to condemn you for anything to come and see me. I’ll tell them who you are. And if they don’t want to believe me I’ll fight them until I’m worn out.”

Changarnier was transfigured as he spoke these words. He already saw himself as the defender of human weakness. He paced nervously back and forth across his little room, prey to exaltation. Suddenly he stopped, observing at length his visitor as she wiped away her tears.

“Do you love me?” he asked her.

“Yes,” she responded simply.

He approached the young woman and, taking her hands in his, looked at her gratefully.

“Have faith in me,” he said. “Never lose this faith and you’ll see that one day we’ll be happy. What matters right now is that we be able to count on each other; that we’ll always be as one. Let’s go out…”

With this invitation Violette was able to smile again. She believed in the virtues of space. Going out had always meant hope, pleasure, the unknown. But she was seized with dizziness on the staircase and almost fell. Changarnier grabbed her arms just in time.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing, nothing,” she stammered, as if by her own fault she was going to be deprived of the greatest of pleasures.

“Do you want to go back upstairs?”

“No, no! Let’s go out.”

It was 6:00 in the evening. The snow was still falling. The passersby hurried home where, Changarnier imagined, a good fire and a loving family awaited them. They walked a few minutes in the overcrowded quarter where they lived. Red, yellow, and green electric signs seemed to melt the snow around them.

“Should we go in here?” Changarnier proposed, pointing to a small, miserable-looking, but warm café.

“Or do you want to go to Lavignol’s?”

“Let’s go here,” said Violette, who was worn out.

A gentle warmth greeted them, perfumed by dinner being prepared in a nearby kitchen. For perhaps the thousandth time in his life Changarnier deplored the fact that café owners never–even for money–wanted to share their meals with their customers. They sat down at a table off to the side. For a few minutes they didn’t say a word to each other. But when the waiter finally came over to them Changarnier had to speak. The sound of his own voice led him to continue speaking, as if he were a third party.

“Violette,” he said, “one thing that’s certain is we can’t go on living like this. Everyone on earth has money, love, and pleasure except us. Everyone comes, goes, and lives, except us.”

Changarnier slammed his hand down on the table.

“This can’t go on any longer!”

Violette looked at him with astonishment. The spirit of revolt was not part of her primitive soul. She submitted to her lot, and instead of trying to escape her poverty the sight of what she saw around her made her increasingly bitter. So great was her helplessness that it would have been foolish to want her to act. She brusquely sat up straight and seemed to come out of her torpor. The man at her side, Changarnier, was crying. With one movement this woman, who it seemed had no reason to live, this woman who was stupidity itself, who had never even considered herself to be unhappy, who’d never envied a single soul, was transformed. She leaned towards her neighbor, timidly took his hand and, without daring any further caresses for fear of being pushed away, asked him with the greatest compassion:

“What’s the matter?”

He didn’t answer. She moved closer to him, encouraged by his distress.

“Tell me what’s the matter.”

He stammered a few unintelligible words and then, half-straightening himself in the chair, he said:

“Who on earth understands me? Who on earth pities me? I’m alone, and have nothing. What’s going to become of me?”

Her poor existence had rendered her so modest that it didn’t occur to Violette to say that he had her. She gazed at him with a helpless pity. The two of them, though united, like all the couples in the world, by the same bond, were hopelessly distant from each other. To see them there, side by side, it appeared that love counts for little without the circumstances that allow it to flourish. They were united like all lovers, and yet they were strangers to each other. Changarnier abruptly stood up as if he was going to leave, and then, just as abruptly, he sat back down. His anger at the world was so violent that he didn’t know what to do, he didn’t know what to think, and he was ready to do anything and nothing.

“Let’s go,” he suddenly said.

As happened in the room, Violette accepted the proposal with joy. They walked a hundred meters without speaking, under the still-falling snow. Though the hour was growing later, the crowds were large, and the cars, which were so numerous they touched each other, were stock still. An enormous clamor rose from the street. It was as if life itself was calling Changarnier, as if the din was the tangible proof that there was something else in the world besides his pitiful horizon.

They pushed on in this way for abut ten minutes, towards more people, noise, snow, and lights. Violette trailed him with her fearful little steps. Suddenly, he turned. She had just said to him:

“Do you want me to give you some money?”

He looked at her for a moment without answering.

“Yes, you or another, or everyone. It doesn’t make any difference where it comes from, as long as it comes. Money! Money that will allow me to do whatever I want, that’s what I want; that’s my dream, my life’s goal.”

“But I can’t give you any,” the poor girl continued in a plaintive voice.

“I know. You can’t, neither you nor the others, nor anyone.”

He stopped again, tired out from having spoken too quickly. A thin sweat rolled down his brow. He wiped it with his snow-wet hand. Then he raised his eyes to the sky. It was pink from the city’s lights, from the thickness of its snow clouds. And that boundlessness above the city’s limits, above human order and constructions, seemed to him to be a spectacle, a spectacle that contrasted with the world in which he found himself. He understood there was an immensity that he was not part of, that no one was part of, and since no one was part of it, he understood that beneath the grandiose sky, on this overpopulated earth, it belonged to whoever knew how to get by. For a brief moment he saw himself to be the brother of the happy, of the unhappy, of the rich, of the ill. He resembled all these men, and this feeling gave him a shiver of joy. But it seemed to him that all these people had reasoned the same way before he did, and that was why they had been able to seize a portion of the happiness of this world while he hadn’t been able to.

“Walk faster,” he said to Violette, who was beginning to struggle behind him.

“But where are we going?” she asked him, since for the first time she was tired of being outside.

“I don’t know. We’re walking straight ahead with the hope that something will happen to us. We have to go to happiness since it won’t come to us. What’s left to wretches like us if it’s not going forward with the hope that something new will happen? Let’s walk as far as our strength can take us, until we can’t go any further, and then we’ll see: nothing worse can happen to us. Aren’t we the mediocrity, the sickness, the weakness of this world? We have to walk, Violette.”

She looked at him with tears in her eyes. Her legs refused to carry her any further. Water ran down her face and the pitiful fur she wore to neighborhood dances looked like a rag. Changarnier stopped to look at his companion. He hadn’t eaten since morning and his neck and temples were pounding with a migraine that cast a halo of disgust and horror over everything.

“Let’s go,” he said, without taking a step, being exhausted as well. He couldn’t move. His feet were soaked. Because he hadn’t raised the collar of his thin overcoat when they stepped outside he didn’t want to do it now for fear of drenching his neck. He began to tremble and almost fell. A passerby held him up, set him right, and vanished.

“Let’s walk…” he said again, as if he were a sleepwalker. “We can’t stay here. We have to go somewhere. We have to do something, and walking is the only way to do it.”

Violette didn’t answer. She obeyed and took a few steps, but Changarnier didn’t have the strength to follow her. Even so, he shouted at her from a distance:

“That’s it, walk. We have to go forward, we have to walk towards fortune and happiness, since they don’t come to us.”

Violette kept walking. There were moments when the passersby hid her from the young man. With a start he tensed himself and rushed after her, as if by going somewhere she was going to find happiness and leave him to his pathetic lot. Like a voyager in the desert who finds the strength to follow his companions to an oasis, he succeeded in following her. And yet, there was no oasis. When he rejoined her he continued to encourage her. But this effort exhausted him. Catching sight of a café he stopped again, and with a completely changed voice said to Violette:

“Let’s go inside and rest a moment. And anyway, what’s the use of walking since it’s always the same thing? What’s the point of running like this since we’ll never find the things that will make us happy?”

“Are you changing on me?” she asked.

“”No, I’m still the same, but I’m tired.”

The lights on the street passed across their faces with an unfailing rapidity. The snow continued to fall, melting as soon as it touched the ground, transforming the sidewalks into marshes. They entered a café where people were playing cards, where the banquettes were dry, where a gentle heat floated like the joy in living. As they had the previous time, they sat down off to the side. A gentle feeling of well-being came over them. There are moments that are particularly beloved by the unsatisfied, transitory moments. For them those moments are a luxury, and one shouldn’t only see in certain people’s mania for going to new cabarets their need to get drunk, but also that of changing their status. They enter, they leave. They begin by wanting to leave, then they want to go inside. Changarnier took a cigarette from his pocket.

“Do you want it?” he asked Violette.

But she didn’t refuse or accept it. She was indifferent to everything. So he lit his cigarette with a match from the café, a match that didn’t belong to him and, in his poverty, he was aware that it was a gift.

“”What are we going to drink, Violette?”

“Whatever you want.”

He called the waiter over and ordered two rum grogs. And then he joyfully inhaled the smoke of his cigarette. “At this moment I smoke with more pleasure than any happy person,” he thought. “There’s nothing like not having something to get you to appreciate its value.” Then he drank his rum with profound joy.

“What more could I ask for? Satiety? After all, maybe we’re happier like this, right Violette?”

She looked at him with bewilderment. She was a woman. She didn’t understand these joys. All she knew was that she was lowest of the low, and even if the greatest satisfaction were to revive her she wouldn’t believe she was happy. How could she believe that after what Changarnier had told her at his place before they left?

After having passed ten minutes in this calm state, Changarnier abruptly stood up.

“Let’s go,” he said. “We can’t stay here. Let’s go have a sandwich somewhere and then we can go see a film. And tomorrow nothing will be left for breakfast, for the hotel; nothing for anything.”

“Maybe that’s not wise. We’re better off saving the few francs we have.”

“What if I joined the Foreign Legion, what if I killed myself? What if I got a job and you did too, usherette in a movie theater, and me projectionist, both of us in the same theater with set paydays, Fridays probably, the day the film programs change. Then every day we could go to restaurants, spend every evening in the hotel room, every morning in bed with the newspaper to read and a guaranteed pack of cigarettes. What do you think of that?”

“I always thought it had to end like that.”

“Yes, but afterwards? We can’t stop. As soon as we stop things are exactly the way they are today.”

“We’ll put money aside.”

“In that case it’s not worth the trouble to work, since we’ll have no enjoyment.”

“What about later?”

“But later it’ll be the same thing, since you can’t possibly imagine we’ll save enough to be able to live on our annuities. So we have to work in order to live. But since not working doesn’t stop us from living, we’re better off doing nothing since we live as if we worked.”

He stopped and chuckled.

“All of these people should stop, too, since they’re just like us.”

But they didn’t stop.

“Yes, they’re like us all the same, ha, ha.”

He stood up so abruptly that he almost turned over the table in front of him. A glass rolled to the floor and shattered. The waiter and the owner came over to them.

“It’s one franc fifty for a glass here.”

Changarnier looked at them with scorn.

“Who’s ever heard of paying for broken glasses?”

“Here, sir, precisely here. Let’s go, hurry up…I don’t have time to wait around.”

“I won’t pay. I need my money to go to the movies.”

“Movies come after debts. Let’s go, hurry.”

But Changarnier refused to budge while his mistress, finally coming alive, took his side. Not being certain that a policeman would back him in such a minor matter the owner felt an impotent rage. But he was distracted from it by these astounding words of Changarnier’s:

“Come on, don’t be angry. Get your hat and come along with us to happiness.”

He thought he was dealing with a madman and his anger quickly subsided. So this wasn’t a case of the baseness he always suspected in those who didn’t want to pay. And yet, he wanted to show the other clients that if someone didn’t pay him he was still in charge. He went up to Changarnier and, taking him by the arm, wanted to push him outside to demonstrate his authority. But he had barely touched the young man when the latter, with a violent movement out of all proportion with the effort needed to free himself, pulled himself away. He was white with rage. He had been touched. Someone had wanted to push him. He could no longer control himself, and like a madman he senselessly fled to the back door that opened onto a toilet, and then ran back to the middle of the café. Some customers had stood up. He grew increasingly white with rage, to such a point that he looked like he was capable of doing anything. But then, since everyone there was becoming increasingly threatening, he resigned himself. He headed for the door. Since the owner still wanted to take him by the arm he retreated, holding his hands out in front of him like those drunks who policemen push before them. Then with a gentle voice devoid of any anger, he said:

“Instead of being so nasty, come with us. My wife is beautiful and we’ll go far, far, far.”

The owner smiled contemptuously and, taking the customers as witnesses, he shouted:

“You see this maniac? He wants me to leave with him.”

The room broke out in laughter. Insults flew. Changarnier had put his hat on backwards without realizing it, and his hands in his pockets, his legs akimbo, he looked like a drunk amusing himself by trying to remain upright without moving his feet. Violette was two meters behind him, her hand on the doorknob, ready to flee in case of danger. She trembled with fear in the face of the colossus who, with his sleeves rolled up and his conquering moustache, went up to Changarnier with a contained rage ready to explode.

“You’ve mocked me enough, you urchin,” he bellowed. “You’re not happy with just breaking my glasses; you also want to mock me in front of everyone. Let’s go, get out now! Otherwise, I’m not responsible for what I might do.”

Changarnier retreated and, finally obeying, left, followed by Violette.

He had taken only a few steps when an older man in a derby came up to him:

“I saw everything,” he said in an almost feminine voice. “I want only to tell you that you were right not to insist, for that man…”

He stopped speaking, raised himself to Changarnier’s ear, and continued:

“…works with the police.”

As if he’d announced news capable of overturning the world he assumed a satisfied look and awaited the results of his indiscretion. But there were none. Changarnier remained indifferent. The little man looked both surprised and put out. But he didn’t accept defeat. Moving closer to Violette, who followed a few steps behind the two men, he said to her:

“You are no doubt unaware of what I just said to your friend. I just told him the owner of the café where you just were…”

He stopped again, and then continued in a softer voice:

“…is with the police.”

As he had the first time, he waited. This time the results were different. The young woman gave a low cry and seemed to be upset by this news. At the sound of her voice Changarnier turned around.

“But that’s not at all important,” he said.

And then directly addressing the little man:

“What are you insinuating with your stories? Explain yourself. In the first place, I don’t know you. And anyway, leave us alone.”

“But I’m not insinuating anything,” replied the little man. “I simply want to warn you against your hot-headed nature. One never knows what might happen when one hasn’t been warned. I told you this for your own good.”

Our three characters walked together for a few minutes without speaking a word. The weather was awful. A stormy wind blew down the crowded streets, and icy snow flew in all directions. The little man was perhaps fifty years old. He had the wrinkled face of an old witch. He was toothless, and because of this his upper lip had disappeared. His clothes were worn out, but clean. It was clear that this individual aspired to an air of dignity, which made him a tad ridiculous.

“What do you want?” asked Changarnier, who was beginning to be annoyed by the presence of this man at his side.

“Nothing, nothing…I’m taking a walk.”

“You’d be better off going home and leaving people alone.”

“But I’m not bothering you.”

“Yes you are bothering me.”

“Even so, I’m not going to walk in another direction just to make you happy.”

“I’m asking that you not walk near me.”

“I don’t have anything to do with you.”

Changarnier stopped, and the little man imitated him.

“This has gone far enough. I’m asking you for the last time, go on your way.”

“I don’t think it’s forbidden to stop wherever you want.”

“Good! Stop if that makes you happy. But I’m leaving.”

And with this, taking Violette by the arm, Changarnier walked away. But before he had the time to take a few steps the unknown man also set himself in motion. Changarnier sped up. Despite his small size and his sickly appearance the unknown man was easily able to follow him. Once again Changarnier stopped. But like a shadow, the unknown man stopped as well.

“Is this going to go on much longer?” Changarnier asked, losing control of himself. “Do you think I’m prepared to allow myself to be mocked? Are you mad by any chance? For the last time, I ask you to leave me alone.”

“But I am leaving you alone.”

“I’m asking you to stop following me, to stop stopping whenever I stop, and to go away.”

“I’m free to stop wherever I want.”

“You don’t have the right to follow me.”

During this dialogue Violette, indifferent to it all, gazed fixedly before her. She seemed prey to a hallucination. From time to time she pressed herself against Changarnier, perhaps because she felt herself growing weaker. Anger had rendered Changarnier unrecognizable. The little man got on his nerves so badly that he would have liked to crush him under his fist, to grind him to pulp.

“I have the right to go wherever I want,” continued this little man, in a strange voice. “We all have this right, and if we spot a door open onto the light, a door that no one else has yet seen, it’s not a matter of duty, but of salvation to go through it.”

Changarnier didn’t understand a word of this.

“What do you mean by that?” he asked.

“I mean that your words weren’t completely wasted. You wanted to lead the café owner to happiness. He didn’t want to go. Everyone laughed. But without saying anything, sitting silently in the corner, I understood.”

‘Towards happiness?”


Changarnier remained silent for a moment, during which he allowed his gaze to go from the little man to Violette, and from the latter to the former. Then he broke out in a loud laugh.

“What’s wrong?” asked the little man.

“Maybe you have a fever,” said Violette.

“There’s nothing wrong,” Changarnier answered between two fits of laughter. “I’m laughing…I’m laughing… But really, sir, are you mad, yes or no? Has someone hit you on the head?”

Stunned, the little man didn’t answer.

“Poor stranger, I’m going to have to call a policeman to take you to a hospital. At least there you’ll be taken care of.”

“You want to call a policeman?” asked the little man, with a sudden irony.

“Two policemen!”

“Wretch! You don’t know what you’re saying. You talk…you talk…and you end by listening to yourself talk… And you have no idea what you’re saying, wretch that you are!”

This time Changarnier could no longer hold himself back. Grabbing the little man by his tie, he shook him violently, shoved him against a wall, and held him there for a few seconds. And then, releasing him, he took Violette by the hand, and with long strides dragged her away.

“Now I can breathe,” he said, reaching a plaza in the middle of which was a square.

“What did he want from us?” asked Violette, as if she’d just woken up.

“I don’t know. He wanted to follow us.”

“He’s crazy.”

The two lovers looked at each other.

“But where is he?” Changarnier anxiously asked.

“You squeezed him against the wall.”

“Why has he stopped following us?”

“Perhaps he’s dizzy? Maybe you squeezed him too hard.”

They continued to look at each other, and then without exchanging another word, as if their eyes understood each other, they retraced their steps. They passed again before the wall against which Changarnier had brutally shoved the little man. An icy sweat rolled down the young man’s back.

“It’s frightening,” he said to Violette.


“The thought I just had. It’s horrible.”

“But what did you think of?

The snow continued to fall. A tepid wind rose. And the still-dense crowd scurried down the street, meeting at the crosswalks, colliding with each other without excusing themselves.

“I’ll tell you,” Changarnier answered. “But come into this bar, we’ll get something hot. Come.”

When they sat down a heavy silence enveloped them.

“I thought,” Changarnier began, “that I’d killed the little man without meaning to, but that he was pursuing me even so to take revenge, that he had made a formal complaint against me, that he was stirring everyone up against me and, finally, that I was arrested. I was taken to prison. In front of the judge I affirmed that the man had been following me, that he stopped when I stopped and that finally, incensed, I couldn’t stop myself from roughing him up without for a moment thinking of killing him. But the judge looked at me with disbelief. ‘Obviously you wouldn’t say the contrary.’ I insisted on my honesty. He smiled. It was obvious that in his mind I had not only committed the crime, but that it was premeditated. And it was at that moment that the little man solemnly testified. ‘He killed me,’ he said, pointing at me, ‘without any provocation on my part. He’s lying when he says I followed him; I was simply walking behind him. In any case, your honor, we’re all free to walk wherever we want.’ ‘Liar!’ I shouted in an excess of helplessness. ‘You followed me. And if I stopped, you would stop too. You’re a liar, a filthy liar.’ And it was then that I became conscious of something extraordinary. There were no witnesses and he was the one they believed, and not me. And yet we were both equally worthy of belief. But he was the one they believed and not me. And do you know, Violette, why they believed him in my dream?”

“No, why?”

“You don’t want to try to guess?”

“I’m thinking but I can’t come up with anything.”

“Well, I’ll tell you. They believed him, they believed everything he said because he was dead.”

“Because he was dead?”

“Exactly. Because he was dead.”

“But if he was dead then he couldn’t talk, much less accuse you.”

“Excuse me, but I was talking about a dream. In this dream death didn’t prevent him from being real. On the contrary, it made him look like a victim, a martyr, and consequently he attracted everyone’s sympathy and protection. But enough of this story. If we want to go to the movies let’s go…let’s go…let’s go…and forget all this…and let’s go…and…”

He cut himself off. The little man was in front of him and looked at him with eyes full of reproach.

“What do you want from me?” asked Changarnier.

“Nothing, nothing at all. Don’t I have the right to enter this bar? Dear sir, I hope you don’t think that only you have the right to move.”

“I think nothing at all. I only ask that you leave me in peace and that I no longer find you wherever I go.”

“But it’s you, sir, who are always there wherever I go. If I had your personality I would long since have lost control of myself. Watch out.”

Changarnier turned to Violette.

“This weakling is warning me to watch out. Isn’t that something? Yes or no, is this person going to leave me in peace? Yes or no, am I a free man? Yes or no, do I have the right to live, to be happy, to make those around me happy?”

These words were greeted with a loud laugh. This so surprised Changarnier that he was dumbfounded. But he was suddenly gripped with panic. This man had to be truly sure of himself to stand up to him this way, to not fear him. While his companion exhorted him to remain calm he felt increasingly frightened. “So this is where my nerves lead me,” he thought. “I don’t know what to think. I’m frightened when there’s nothing to fear. I’m full of myself when I should be prudent. What kind of man am I? Aren’t I a miserable wreck lacking will, incapable of carrying anything through to the end?” Changarnier, in the fever that swept over him, increasingly lost control of himself. On this evening swept by the snow, the wind, and the uncertainty of the morrow, he felt himself capable of both the greatest act of courage and the greatest cowardice.

“If I died,” he said in his delirium to the little man, “you’d be happy.”

“But you can’t die,” the latter answered enigmatically.

“You think so?”

“I’m sure of it. You can’t and you must not die.”

“Do you hear?” Changarnier said to Violette. “Am I mad? This is all turning into a nightmare. Come on, let’s get out of here. Let’s walk straight ahead.”

The snow had stopped falling a few minutes before, and without the flakes the air seemed suddenly uninhabited. Violette took off her fur coat and shook it out. For a brief moment the passersby could see her in her flimsy, short, low-cut dress. After she’d put her coat back on the two lovers moved off as the little man watched them go. But he didn’t remain still for long. Suddenly, he started to run after them.

“Monsieur, monsieur, listen to me. I have something to tell you. You have to forgive me. I know how strange my attitude appears. But once you’ve heard me out you’ll understand everything.”

The reader will excuse us for opening a parenthesis here. He should imagine our three characters gathered in the well-lit room of a café and have the patience to listen to the stranger speak for a few moments.


Emmanuel Bove

Emmanuel (Bobovnikoff) Bove was born in Paris in 1898. The son of an immigrant Ukrainian Jew and a Belgian-born housemaid, Bove was raised in abject poverty by an erratic, womanizing father and a cowering mother who shuffled her two children throughout the poorest neighborhoods of Paris. He began writing fiction in his late teens and many of his extraordinary novels have been translated into English. My Friends, Armand, The Stepson, A Singular Man, A Man Who Knows, Winter’s Journal, and Quicksand are all worth seeking out and devouring. Emmanuel Bove died in Paris in July 1945.

Mitch Abidor

Mitch Abidor is a writer and translator living in Brooklyn. His books include: The Great Anger: Ultra-Revolutionary Writing in France From the Atheist Priest to the Bonnot Gang, Communards: The Paris Commune of 1871 as Told By Those Who Fought For It, the forthcoming collection of Victor Serge's writings on anarchism, Anarchists Never Surrender, and selections from Jean Jaures' Socialist History of the French Revolution.

English translation copyright (c) Mitch Abidor, 2014.