The Women Who Watch
by Thomas Owen
Translated by Edward Gauvin
‘Do you know that woman?’ he asked the waiter.
‘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.
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:
About the Narrator
Pete Milan – is your reader this week. Pete writes, and produces audio drama for Pendant Audio, and can also be heard in audio dramas from Gypsy Audio, the Colonial Radio Theater On The Air, and Cape Cod Radio Mystery Theater. He has also performed free audiobooks for Librivox. You can visit him at twitter.com/PeteMilan..