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Author Topic: Pseudopod 281: The Women Who Watch  (Read 1333 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: May 13, 2012, 12:50:27 AM »

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!”.


Read by 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.”




Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2012, 12:59:35 AM »

I am the King Under the Mountain, and this is the first post on this thread.

This story really freaked me out, but there's not a lot to say that Alasidair didn't already say. I loved the inevitability of it, the gradual, creeping feeling that something is very wrong and there's nothing you can do about it. I loved how the tension gradually shifted until the man became the sinister one and the women his silent judges. I thought the adult women, standing in judgement and condemnation of the child molester, was a very apt choice given the psychology of the pedophile. Frankly, a lot of tiny details in this story - from the character's alienation from adult women, to the way he was clearly trying to re-interpret the girl as "adult" - fit the profile of the child molester perfectly. The author's background in criminal psychology put to good use, I imagine.

All in all, I loved this one. Excellent work.

Also, two stories in accent in a row! Is that some kind of record?

I was originally going to say "German accent," but then I remembered that the author is Belgian. Still, far be it from me to deny my peers a chance to mock me for my American ignorance Wink.
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Jeff C. Carter
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« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2012, 01:47:23 AM »

I liked this story - in a freaky, unsettling way.  

I initially thought this was another pseudopod story where we see the fevered workings of a deranged miscreant.  As the details became clearer a deeper narrative began to surface.  The women are revealed to be the Fates, and he is being judged for preying on a little girl.  However this begs the question: was this all pre-ordained?  Were the Norns really in that room with the large iron bed, or did the narrator just imagine them there?  If this was his inescapable fate then this story takes on an even more horrifying dimension.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2012, 01:16:43 AM by Jeff C. Carter » Logged

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yaksox
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« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2012, 07:40:19 AM »

Yes very well crafted and very dark. I don't see it anywhere in the header, what year was this particular story written? There's something about all the little details that really like about stories like this -- I don't know if it can be attributed to something in the translation, or if it's just the older (generation) style of writing.  I kind of prefer this slow moving but richly detailed style compared to the faster pace of most current-day written stuff.
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countblackula
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« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2012, 02:25:43 PM »

Am I the only one who didn't get it until after the story was over?

Even after it was over, I'm not sure I really cared for it.
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« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2012, 08:52:25 AM »

Am I the only one who didn't get it until after the story was over?

Even after it was over, I'm not sure I really cared for it.

I didn't get it either.  In retrospect I didn't apparently understand it at all until Alasdair started talking about the Fates, and then it kind of started to make sense. 

As I was listening to it, this would be my synopsis:
A strange woman watches him. 
Another strange woman watches him. 
Another strange woman watches him. 
Then the three strange women watch him.
The End.

I didn't find it freaky or unsettling, just confusing.  It was very clear throughout that I was supposed to be getting something out of this that I was completely missing, but I just couldn't figure out what that was.  I guess I'm slow on the uptake.
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« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2012, 06:48:17 PM »

I found the accent distracting to the point where I couldn't follow what was going on. Did anyone else feel that way?
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« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2012, 08:02:25 AM »

I found the accent distracting to the point where I couldn't follow what was going on. Did anyone else feel that way?

I must admit that I did too.
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« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2012, 01:50:48 PM »

Yes very well crafted and very dark. I don't see it anywhere in the header, what year was this particular story written? There's something about all the little details that really like about stories like this -- I don't know if it can be attributed to something in the translation, or if it's just the older (generation) style of writing.  I kind of prefer this slow moving but richly detailed style compared to the faster pace of most current-day written stuff.

@yaksox: the story in its current form first appeared in the May 1971 issue of Fiction, the French sister publication to F&SF, before being collected in 1972. It's possible that earlier, considerably different drafts of it exist; I haven't been able to track these down, though for some other famous Owen stories you can track their evolution through 12+ drafts, some published at different points in time.

I'm glad you liked it!
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hronir
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« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2012, 07:15:43 PM »

This was excellent.

Am I the only one who didn't get it until after the story was over?

Even after it was over, I'm not sure I really cared for it.
I must admit it didn't fall into place for me until the end but I absolutely loved it! In fact this is why I enjoyed it the most. Obviously there was some connection between all of these women but it could have been anything- for some reason I had in my mind Roald Dahl's The Witches. Originally I thought it was going to be a series of vignettes with a general ribbon of an idea further unfurling with each one told- like the Grandmother's description of the creatures to the boy in Dahl's story. As it was, this story really came together so well at the end.I am going to go back and listen to it again.

Yes very well crafted and very dark. I don't see it anywhere in the header, what year was this particular story written? There's something about all the little details that really like about stories like this -- I don't know if it can be attributed to something in the translation, or if it's just the older (generation) style of writing.  I kind of prefer this slow moving but richly detailed style compared to the faster pace of most current-day written stuff.
I absolutely agree. I love these hidden gems that I find in the corners of pseudopod towers amongst the more modern pieces which, while are great, I find are written differently (e.g. perhaps sometimes written with future audio translation in mind, usually more raw and fast paced etc.). Alternatively, I may subconsciously romanticise a piece from the beginning when I hear that it was written 40 years ago Wink either way, the end result is a different experience.
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Umbrageofsnow
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« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2012, 10:25:58 AM »

I really enjoyed this story, and got a kick out of the accent.  But the narration put the other people listening with me to sleep!

I am absolutely a fan of the interpretation that he was fated to molest the little girl and never had any free will, but must be punished for it anyway. It fits nicely with Greek mythology I think, and it's much more horrific.  Absolutely loved this one, Pseudopod continues to hit it out of the park.  I'm really digging the translations and obscure old stuff.

Can I just say that I hope you guys stick with the classics for episode 300?  200 was one of the best of the year twice over, while "We Go Back" and "In the Stacks", while both good, didn't really stand out as exceptional from any other week of Podcastle/Escape Pod. You guys did 2 classics for 200, so can we expect 3 for 300?

Anyway, keep up the good work, especially broadening our horror horizons.
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« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2012, 05:34:26 PM »

1 for 300 (3 might have killed me), but expect "classics" on the quarters (325, 350, etc.) and also salted in amongst the "new" (21st century) and the recent (mid to late 20th century).

Glad you liked it.
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