Kavar The Rat
by Thomas Owen
Translated by Edward Gauvin
But he’d been a skillful artisan, and remained so. At the beginning of his career, his real specialty had been locksmithing. Ah! Nothing to do with today’s dumb little locks, all identical, with grooved keys and four screws to be slapped up any old where, which came apart with a blow of your fist. No. Real locks, ingenious, intelligent, personal, custom-made. He’d built all kinds! Secrets, thief-proof, devilishly clever. But also screaming padlocks that wouldn’t let themselves be violated, latches that struck back, a stack of sneaky, perplexing little mechanisms to turn the most sensible engineer pale.
About the Authors
Two-time winner of the John Dryden Translation prize, Clarion alum Edward Gauvin has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, PEN America, the Centre National du Livre, the American Literary Translators Association, and the French Embassy. His books include Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud’s selected stories, A Life on Paper (Small Beer), winner of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award, and Jean Ferry’s The Conductor and Other Tales (Wakefield). His work has been nominated for the French-American Foundation Translation Prize, the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, and the Best Translated Book Award. Other publications have appeared in The New York Times, Tin House, Subtropics, Conjunctions, and World Literature Today. In 2010, he was a Fulbright scholar in Brussels, and in 2014, a resident at the Château de Seneffe. Other residencies include the Banff Centre, Ledig House, the Villa Gillet, the Maison des Écritures Midi-Pyrénées, and the Lannan Foundation. The translator of more than 250 graphic novels, he is the contributing editor for Francophone comics at Words Without Borders, and writes on the Francophone fantastic at Weird Fiction Review.
Thomas Owen (real name Gérald Bertot) (1910-2002) worked all his life in the management of the same flour-milling factory. He held a doctorate in criminology, and a side career in art criticism under the pseudonym Stéphane Rey. Spared service in World War II, he turned to writing mysteries for money, with the encouragement of Stanislas-André Steeman, a celebrated craftsman of Belgian noir. In TONIGHT AT EIGHT (from 1941), he introduced the police commissioner Thomas Owen—a character whose name he liked so much he later took it as his own when he embarked on what he has called his true calling, his career as a fantasist. An existential dread, one that Thomas Ligotti correctly identified (in a blurb where he name-checked Owen) as “the nightmare of being alive”, emanates from Owen’s oeuvre of several hundred stories – the best word for Owen’s fiction is unsettling. The 1984 volume THE DESOLATE PRESENCE draws from six of Owen’s seven major collections for its 22 tales, and was the only current English translation of Owen’s work available. Thomas is often credited with Jean Ray and Franz Hellens as a pillar of Belgium weird fiction and as part of the golden age of Belgium fantastique fiction. He wrote over 300 short stories in his lifetime, most being either fantasy or weird fiction.
Check out this article by his translator, Edward Gauvin, to find more of his fiction in english: