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Crossing the Boundaries : French Fantasy from Bragelonne (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Stéphane Marsan (Editor), Tom Clegg (Translator)

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Member:TomVeal
Title:Crossing the Boundaries : French Fantasy from Bragelonne
Authors:Stéphane Marsan (Editor)
Other authors:Tom Clegg (Translator)
Info:Paris: Bragelonne, 2009. 191 p., 23½ cm., Trade Paperback
Collections:Your library, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Alternate History
Rating:****
Tags:Fantasy > Collection > Short Stories

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Crossing the Boundaries: French Fantasy from Bragelonne by Stéphane Marsan (2009)

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From my perspective, the stand-out story in this collection is "Three Little Children" by Ange (collaborative pen name of Anne and Gérard Guéro). Set in a fairy-strewn Paris, this modern spin on the French folktale of Saint Nicholas rescuing three children is deliciously creepy and subtly psychedelic.

It seems that this is a departure from their usual work, however. A shame; I'd have loved to find something longer in a similar vein, either in French or in translation. ( )
  CKmtl | Aug 27, 2009 |
Bragelonne, a French publisher of fantasy, distributed this anthology free of charge to members of this year's World Science Fiction Convention. It consists of translations of five stories published originally in French, plus excerpts from a novel, The Cardinal's Blades, that will appear in English in November 2009. The objective was to stir up interest in "the new French school of fantasy", about which Anglosphere readers know almost nothing. Judging by the editor's introduction, we ought not to feel guilty: Fantasy literature is a newcomer to the French scene. One tale in this collection suggests that it holds a marginal place. The narrator is a hack novelist whose tyrannical agent wants him to give up fantasy for the more profitable genre of historical fiction. That may be the reality in France but hardly in England or America!

So what is this nouvelle fantaisie française? It would be rash to generalize from half a dozen examples, but the ones presented here tend toward the dark and grim. "The Lady of the Forest" includes a murdered mother, an abandoned infant, a dying narrator and intimations of an outwardly successful but inwardly wasted life. "Wrecking My Career", with the aforementioned tyrannical agent, peeks into a writer's gloomy, decaying subconscious. "Well-Being, Rewarding Work" is told by an imprisoned monster compelled to slaughter his captors' enemies. "Three Little Children" are three street urchins in the least savory arrondissement of Paris. In the final, and best, story ("To Chloe" by Magali Ségura), the heroine begins life as the victim of a sadistic father and ends as an exile (albeit one who has found true love).

Still, one mustn't overemphasize grimness. Except perhaps for "The Lady of the Forest", the endings are all happy, or an approximation thereof. And The Cardinal's Blades is, judging by the the samples, an unproblematic tale of derring-do, set in the France of The Three Musketeers, with dragons added (not at all like Naomi Novik's, I should note).

Overall, the quality of the writing is high. Though most of the stories draw on the conventions of "high fantasy", they avoid using them in a clichéd fashion and can stand comparison with quite a few past Hugo nominees. Whether they are good enough to create a demand for further translations is an open question. Nonetheless, they offer a glimpse of a nascent literary tradition based on, but different from, the fantasy to which English-speaking readers are accustomed. ( )
1 vote TomVeal | Aug 11, 2009 |
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