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Robert Bononno

ROBERT BONONNO is credited with the translation of over two dozen full-length works of fiction and nonfiction and numerous shorter pieces. These include René Crevel’s My Body and I—a finalist for the 2005 French-American Foundation Prize—Hervé Guibert’s Ghost Image, and Henri Raczymo’s Swan’s Way. In 2002 he received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to complete a translation of the non-fiction work of Isabelle Eberhardt and in 2010 he received an NEA grant for the retranslation of Eugène Sue’s classic crime novel, The Mysteries of Paris. Mr. Bononno’s latest translation, Pascal Kramer’s Autopsy of a Father, was recently published by Bellevue Literary Press.

inSerial: part four
The Mysteries of Paris

La Goualeuse remained seated on the overturned tree trunk. Suddenly, a man rose from the bottom of the ditch, shook the bedding beneath which he had been sleeping, and exploded with laughter. La Goualeuse turned and shrieked with fright. It was Chourineur.

inSerial: part six
The Mysteries of Paris

The farm to which Rodolphe led Fleur-de-Marie was located just outside and at the end of the village of Bouqueval, a small solitary parish, unnoticed, buried deep in the countryside, and roughly two leagues from Écouen. The carriage, following Rodolphe's directions, descended a steep road and entered a long avenue bordered with cherry and apple trees.

inSerial: part seven
The Mysteries of Paris

Rodolphe headed toward the courtyard, where he found the tall man who, the evening before, disguised as a coal porter, had come to warn him of the arrival of Tom and Sarah. Murph, for that is his name, was about fifty years old. A few silvery strands highlighted two small tufts of bright blond hair that stuck out on either side of his otherwise bald head.

inSerial: part twelve
The Mysteries of Paris

One month had passed since the events we last spoke of. The reader’s attention is now drawn to the small village of L’Île-Adam, which occupies a delightful vantage point along the Oise river, at the edge of a forest. Here, in the countryside, the smallest events assume importance. And that morning the idlers of L’Île-Adam, as they strolled across the square before the church, were greatly occupied with the arrival of the new owner of the town’s finest butcher shop, recently sold by the Widow Dumont.

inSerial: part seventeen
The Mysteries of Paris

“Mister Willis, a wealthy American farmer from Florida,” said Murph, “had a young slave by the name of David, who worked in the infirmary on the plantation. He found David to be of uncommon intelligence and deeply sympathetic and attentive to the sick, whom he cared for attentively when carrying out the doctors’ orders.

Extract from Autopsy of a Father

The retention ponds had just been crossed. The train was now moving over the final patches of tilled earth, raked with copper beneath the low autumn sun. Soon the forest would appear, the tunnels, and the rush of crowded trains along the viaduct, with the seemingly endless expanse of the distant city before it.

inSerial: part thirteen
The Mysteries of Paris

Through the attentions of Murph and Rodolphe, who with some difficulty managed to calm his agitation, Chourineur returned fully to his senses after a long crisis. He found himself alone with Rodolphe in one of the rooms on the first floor of the butcher shop.

inSerial: part one
The Mysteries of Paris

Eugène Sue owed his immense popularity to the series of sensational novels of Parisian low life, which he began in 1842 with Les Mystères de Paris (The Mysteries of Paris). The book appeared as a serial novel, or feuilleton, in the conservative newspaper Le Journal des Débats. The Mysteries of Paris provided its readers with an examination of working-class and criminal Paris that no novel had until then portrayed. Sue’s book, with its portraits of prostitutes, criminals, and villains of all stripes, who speak in their own language and move about in their own milieu, caused a scandal upon its release. Unlike his contemporaries, in The Mysteries of Paris Sue abandoned the drawing rooms of the beau monde for the dive bars and cabarets of central Paris, Ile de la Cité, where the story is set.

inSerial: part two
The Mysteries of Paris

The reader may recall the two patrons in the bar who were under close observation by a third person who had arrived sometime after them. As mentioned, one of the two men wore a Greek cap, kept his left hand hidden, and had, upon entering the premises, inquired of the Abbess regarding the arrival of the Schoolmaster.

inSerial: part eight
The Mysteries of Paris

It was midday and the rain fell in torrents. The Seine, swollen by the continuous downpour, had risen to a dangerous height and flooded part of the wharf. From time to time, Rodolphe glanced impatiently at the toll gate. Finally, in the distance, he saw a man and woman advance behind the shelter of an umbrella. He recognized the Schoolmaster and the Owl.

inSerial: part nine
The Mysteries of Paris

After responding to the Schoolmaster’s signal, the host of the Coeur-Saignant advanced with civility to the doorway. The man, whom Rodolphe had searched for in La Cité, and whose real name he did not yet know, was Bras-Rouge. Small, thin, stunted, and weak, the man looked to be about fifty.

inSerial: part eleven
The Mysteries of Paris

The following scene transpired in a brilliantly lit salon draped entirely in red. Rodolphe, dressed in a long dressing gown of black velvet, which further augmented his paleness, was seated before a large table covered with a rug.

inSerial: part fifteen
The Mysteries of Paris

Baron de Graün continued: “About 18 months ago, a young man by the name of François Germain arrived in Paris from Nantes, where he had been employed by the banking firm of Noël & Company. Based on statements made by the Schoolmaster and several letters found on him, it appears that the scoundrel to whom he had entrusted his son for the sole purpose of corrupting him, so he might one day be of use to his criminal activities, revealed the terrible plot to the young man when he suggested that he assist them in an attempted robbery and forgery at the firm of Noël & Company, where François Germain worked.

inSerial: part sixteen
The Mysteries of Paris

“So you see, Murph,” said Baron de Graün as he finished reading the report, which he handed to the squire, “based on our information, we must turn to Jacques Ferrand to track down the parents of La Goualeuse, and it is Mlle Rigolette we must question concerning the current whereabouts of François Germain. That is already a large matter, I believe, knowing where to look—for what one is looking for.”

inSerial: part three
The Mysteries of Paris

he Schoolmaster and the Owl, lurking in an alley just opposite the bar, watched as Chourineur walked down the street alongside a house that was being demolished. Soon, his steps, made heavy by the evening’s abundant libations, were lost in the howling wind and the splattering of the rain against the walls. Tom and Sarah left the tavern in spite of the storm and headed in the direction away from Chourineur.

inSerial: part five
The Mysteries of Paris

At that moment Rodolphe instructed the driver, who had passed the village of Sarcelles, to take the first road on the right, cross Villiers-le-Bel, and then turn left, heading straight. Turning to La Goualeuse, he said “Now that you’re satisfied with me, we can amuse ourselves with building castles in Spain. It doesn’t cost much, so you can’t reproach me for the expense.”

inSerial: part ten
The Mysteries of Paris

A blazing fire burned in the hearth and a lamp placed on the dresser cast a bright light throughout the apartment. Rodolphe’s bed, surrounded by thick curtains of green damask, remained in darkness.

inSerial: part fourteen
The Mysteries of Paris

It had just struck ten in the morning. In the middle of a large room on the ground floor, located next to Rodolphe’s office, Murph sat at a desk sealing messages. An usher, dressed in black and wearing a silver chain around his neck, opened the two leaves of the door to the waiting room and announced: “His Excellency, Baron Graün.”


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

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