Noël Devaulx’s “The Sign of Jonah”

November 24th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

The penultimate translation of my tenure as guest editor for the Consulate, Joyland’s international fiction section, is now live. It’s the second story of Devaulx’s that’s appeared there.

“The Sign of Jonah” begins with a quote from the Book of Jonah, but the Bible line it reminds me of is Matthew, 26:11: “For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.” The exceedingly short piece is enigmatic as ever, but this time also cinematic. It also strikes me as somewhat Poe-ish: in fact, it shares with Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death,” to which Devaulx’s piece refers, the mounting sense of dread that accompanies sedulously orchestrated progression through space. Merging as it does bourgeois tourism with biblical parable in a doom-laden urban environment, the story is oddly timely again in our recession-harried era, when storefronts go empty, and the old familiar places are no more, suddenly closed: the dull gaze of empty windows or the gaptoothed smile of a bankrupt city block.

Hailed by Jean Paulhan and Gaëtan Picon as a master of the fantastique, Noël Devaulx was a frequent contributor to the NRF. Known mainly for his short stories, which have received the Prix de l’Academie française and  the Prix Valéry Larbaud and appeared in The London Magazine, he is published by Gallimard and Éditions José Corti.

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