Pseudopod 281: The Women Who Watch

by Thomas Owen

Translated by Edward Gauvin

This story first appeared in the 1972 collection LA TRUIE (THE SOW). This translation appeared in late February in the first issue of The Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review (formerly The Moon Milk Review). It can be read here

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, and is currently out of print. Both of those details may soon change.

Edward Gauvin is the winner of the John Dryden Translation prize, a Clarion graduate, he has received fellowships from the NEA, the Fulbright Program, and the American Literary Translators’ Association. His volume of Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud’s selected stories, A Life on Paper (Small Beer, 2010) won the Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award. Other publications have appeared in F&SF, Podcastle, Postscripts, Conjunctions, Subtropics, and Tin House. He translates comics for Top Shelf, Self-Made Hero, Archaia, and Lerner. He also writes a monthly column on “the Weird in translation” for the VanderMeers’ Weird Fiction Review. He would also like to mention this graphic novel, Billy Fog and the Gift of Trouble Sight for lovers of the macabre “I think of it as Edward Gorey meets Calvin and Hobbes. If you like it, sequels are forthcoming!”.

Your reader this week is Pete Milan who does a lot of voice work with Pendant Audio, on their fan shows (we do a series of DC Comics-based audio dramas) and originals (I’m a writer and performer on their sci-fi serial, The Kingery, among others)…

“‘Do you know that woman?’ he asked the waiter.

‘What woman?’

‘The one in the corner just now.’

The waiter gave the man a look as if he were joking, and assured him no one had been sitting there. He seemed sincere, and gave no reason to believe he’d been in cahoots with the woman.

Of course something had to burst his bubble. At the foot of the abandoned chair, he spotted the forgotten shopping bag. Out peered the green of leeks, wrapped in newspaper.

The man didn’t insist. He was too happy to have escaped the evil spell.”