L'école de l'étrangeJuly 18, 2014
Ever since discovering Jean Ray in 2012 anthology The Weird I've found myself enchanted with the Belgium branch of weird fiction. However, despite weird fiction's cultish popularity in America, very few of the French language weird fiction works have been translated into English. Weird Fiction Review however has at times featured outstanding stories from Marcel Schwob, Jean Muno, and Jean Ray. However, in terms of books that are available in print, there remain only a few. This is a list of books originally in French that have been translated into English and remain available today.
The Book of Monelle by Marcel Schwob
Marcel Schwob was a French symbolist who influenced a lot of well known writers such as Jorge Luis Borges. The Book of Monelle combines nihilism and suffering with haunting folkloric tales. It is available from Wakefield Press who is also publishing Marcel's The King in the Golden Mask in 2015. Both works are translated by Kit Schuler. Be sure to check out his interview with the Paris Review and also check out "The Plague" by Marcel Schwob on Weird Fiction Review for a haunting tale.
The Conductor and Other Tales by Jean Ferry
Edward Gauvin is a name you'll probably hear a lot if you read French fantastic and weird literature. He's a translator of a variety of French works and he's also a contributor to the Weird Fiction Review website. In The Conductor and Other Tales, Gauvin has collected some of the best nightmarish pataphysical tales of Jean Ferry. In addition to this work, be sure to check out Ferry's "Society Tiger" on Weird Fiction Review.
The House of Oracles by Thomas Owen
House of Oracles is printed by one of my favorite publishers at the moment, Tartarus Press. It's translated by Iain White who has also translated Marcel Schwob. Thomas Owen isn't as well known as his mentor, Belgian weird author Jean Ray, but he's every bit as good if not better in some ways. Owen became acquainted with Ray and remained close friend with Ray until Ray's death in 1964. His works are much like Ray's but feel a bit more contemporary.
The Other Side of the Mountain by Michel Bernanos
If you've read the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer and enjoyed some of the weird elements of the story, you should check this out. VanderMeer has cited it as one of the influences on his trilogy. This book was reprinted in 2007 by Cherokee Publishing Company but it's also available in The Weird anthology by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (see below).
A Life on Paper: Stories by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud
Another work translated by Edward Gauvin and this time offered by Small Beer Press. While this work is perhaps more fantastic then it is weird, it's also more contemporary than some of the other works on this list. Châteaureynaud's stories are said to be reminiscent of Kafka and Borges.
Glove of Passion, Voice of Blood by Jean Muno
While the Golden Age of Belgium weird included authors Jean Ray and Thomas Owen, it has been said, Jean Muno belongs to the Silver Age. Jean Muno is perhaps best known for the surrealism in his works. This work is from Owl Creek Press and it includes two of Muno's better known stories, "Glove of Passion" and "Voice of Blood," along with a couple other stories. The stories in this work demonstrate Muno's ability to find horror in the common, everyday life. While technically out of print, it can be had for around $10 on the used market.
The Weird edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
The Weird is an absolutely fantastic and definitive collection of weird fiction stories that is a must for any fan of the genre. However, for the purposes of this list, it's an essential must-have as it includes two amazing stories by Jean Ray along with the complete novella "Other Side of the Mountain" (see above). The Jean Ray stories, "The Shadowy Street" and "The Mainz Psalter," are top-notch translations and among his best stories. I'd recommend the anthology not only for any weird fiction fan but for anyone that has a passing interest in weird fiction or international dark literature.
Tales of Mystery and Horror by Maurice Level
Level was printed in early 20th century Parisian newspapers and known for his macabre fiction. He was a contemporary of H.P. Lovecraft. This work features 26 of Level's stories and there's also a book from Centipede Press that features this collection plus two of Level's novels.
Malpertuis by Jean Ray
Jean Ray is probably one of the most famous if not the most famous Belgian weird author. He's also considered one of the founders of the Belgian strange. All of Ray's English translations remain out of print. However, unlike many of Ray's other books, it remains very easy to obtain. A used copy of this work will only set you back $10-15. It's worth noting though that this is a novella and not a collection of stories (unlike many of Ray's other books such as Ghouls in my Grave which can sometimes be found on ebay for less than $50). This work is also translated by Iain White.