A Raskolnikoff—Emmanuel Bove (translated from the French by Mitchell Abidor with an introduction by Brian Evenson) paperback/105 pages/ 16.95/ ISBN 978-0-87376-108-6
A RASKOLNIKOFF was originally commissioned for a series of novels called “The Great Fable: Chronicle of Imaginary Characters,” in which figures from literature, theater, film, and legend were brought back to life. Other writers chose Merlin, and Chaplin's Tramp; Bove's choice was to write “a continuation of Crime and Punishment.” In a letter to his publisher he said that Raskolnikoff “doesn't appear in flesh and blood, but his influence on the young man's spirit is very visible.”
“The novella A RASKOLNIKOFF operates (as the title suggests) in a Dostoyevskian vein, with nods to both Crime and Punishment and Notes from Underground. It also strikes me as being a response of sorts to Arthur Schnitzler's novella Dying (1895), which offers a similar torturous dynamic between the two main characters. A RASKOLNIKOFF is the story of Changarnier, a lonely, impoverished man with a healthy—perhaps too healthy—sense of his own guilt and an overweening sense of pride. He has as his audience Violette, a girl who adores him and who he treats increasingly erratically. Together, exhausted, they wander the streets of Paris, eventually “walking straight ahead in the hopes that something will happen to us.”—Brian Evenson, from the Introduction
A Raskolnikoff brought back memories of all the walks I’ve had in my life, the random encounters, obscure sights, and secondary exchanges marked by a glance or a word dripping with intimation. Changarnier’s exchanges with Violet vacillate across the spectrum and it’s their whimsical, and sometimes cold nature, that make them feel authentic, even disturbing. Their jabs of cruelty to each other imbue the story with a sense of sorrow compounded by the unrelenting pressures of society. Time and emotion are inextricably bound, Siamese twins of tragedy that culminate in murder and eschew the tropes that are setup earlier. I couldn’t help but wonder, is the murder that takes place an illusion or a type of self-annihilation, a nihilism driven by a lack of direction? This journey has no home, and Changarnier’s all too aware of it even if others aren’t.
Our three characters walked together for a few minutes without saying a word. The weather was awful. A stormy wind blew down the crowded streets, and icy snow flew in all directions. The little man was perhaps fifty years old. He had the wrinkled face of an old witch. He was toothless, and as a result his upper lip had disappeared. His clothes were worn out, but clean. It was clear that this individual aspired to an air of dignity, which made him somewhat ridiculous.
from A Raskolnikoff
Emmanuel (Bobovnikoff) Bove was born in Paris in 1898. He began writing fiction in his late teens and many of his extraordinary novels have been translated into English. My Friends, Armand, The Stepson, A Singular Man, A Man Who Knows, Winter's Journal, Quicksand and the short story collection Henri Duchemin and His Shadows are all worth seeking out and devouring. Emmanuel Bove died in Paris in July 1945.
Brian Evenson is the author of a dozen books of fiction including the story collections Windeye, The Wavering Knife, Dark Property, Altmann's Tongue and the novels Immobility, Last Days, and The Open Curtain. He has translated work by Christian Gailly, Jean Frémon, Claro, Jacques Jouet, Eric Chevillard, Antoine Volodine, Manuela Draeger and others.
Mitchell Abidor is a writer and translator. His books include, The Great Anger: Ultra-Revolutionary Writing in France From the Atheist Priest to the Bonnot Gang, Communards: The Paris Commune of 1871 as Told By Those Who Fought For It, the forthcoming collection of Victor Serge's writings on anarchism, Anarchists Never Surrender, selections from Jean Jaures', Socialist History of the French Revolution, The Selected Correspondence of Louis-Ferdinand Céline and the poetry of Benjamin Fondane.