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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Henri Duchemin
and His Shadows

Emmanuel Bove

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To purchase Henri Duchemin and His Shadows

Title: Henri Duchemin and His Shadows
Author: Emmanuel Bove
Genre: Stories
Written: 1928 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 149 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Henri Duchemin and His Shadows - US
Henri Duchemin and His Shadows - UK
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Henri Duchemin et ses ombres - Canada
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Henri Duchemin et ses ombres - France
  • French title: Henri Duchemin et ses ombres
  • Translated by Alyson Waters
  • With an Introduction by Donald Breckenridge

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Our Assessment:

B : artfully drawn small pieces

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 8/6/2015 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "A longer collection or a full novel might have done more for literary Francophiles and casual readers alike; but thatís not to say this book isnít abound with mind-bendingly odd sentences that only Bove could write" - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Henri Duchemin and His Shadows collects seven stories by Emmanuel Bove; a character named Henri Duchemin features in the first, tone-setting one, 'Night Crime', and the others do indeed feel like flickering shadows and echoes of his tale and existence.
       The opening story finds Henri Duchemin struggling if not entirely despondent, in relative poverty and general misery, celebrating (though that hardly seems the appropriate term) Christamas Eve. He hasn't given up hope -- "At forty a man is still young and can, if he perseveres, become rich." An opportunity would seem to offer itself, and despite the unexpected way it unfolds Henri Duchemin would seem to be able to walk -- or run -- away a suddenly wealthy man. What now -- when: "He could do without the entire world because he was rich" ? Yet he can not readily embrace his changed circumstances -- he remains the forlorn wanderer and seeker:

     "I want to be happy," Henri Duchemin whispered as he stared at the women passing by.
       Happiness is perhaps elusive, but at least he finds himself ultimately back entirely in his original circumstances, a character who, for better and worse, is unable to become, or act, differently and remains true to his timid, withdrawn self -- typical of Bove's protagonists who, if nothing else, remain consistently very much themselves. Bove's tales are not about character growth and development:
       Bove's characters here -- and in all the remaining stories but one they are also the narrators -- tend to be isolated, unable to make or cling to human connections except on terms that are less than what they hope and wish for. Not all are mired in poverty, but Bâton, in 'Another Friend', is the epitome of Parisian garret poverty -- and, to his chagrin, learns that the well-to-do friend he believes he makes is, in fact, interested in him only as a type, as a representative of his impoverished class, and not out of any genuine sense of friendship.
       Several tales echo each other in collapsed relationships for which the motives appear to remain hidden: 'Night Visit' has a friend try to get the narrator to convince Fernande, the woman in his life, not to leave him, as she insists on doing, without giving any reason; in 'The Story of a Madman' it is a narrator named Fernand who is cutting ties to all his loved ones without explanation.
       Suspicion of infidelity marks other stories, a blind(ing) jealousy -- and arguably evasive responses from the loved ones -- undermining any trust and the foundations of the relationships. In 'What I Saw' the narrator hasn't found peace: "I wound up believing her but, in spite of everything, some doubt has remained in me" he admits, and it seems more than just a little bit that is eating away at him. In 'Is it a Lie ?' the husband simply makes his peace with the situation -- "better to suffer in silence", he decides.
       The neat turns of Bove's stories make them engaging little reads, but -- like his characters -- they're fairly unassuming -- not meager but small. What makes the collection worthwhile is the writing, Bove's deft touch and turns of phrase consistently impressing. These are sad stories, but the craftsmanship behind them makes for considerable reading pleasure.

- M.A.Orthofer, 9 August 2015

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Henri Duchemin and His Shadows: Reviews: Emmanuel Bove: Other books by Emmanuel Bove under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Emmanuel Bove lived 1898 to 1945.

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© 2015-2021 the complete review

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