The Bus of No Return

Edward Gauvin translating the French of Marcel Béalu

Revelry in the lanes of the park! The orchestra in the distance on the lawn! Confetti on the nape of Suzanne's neck, and her sudden kiss alone behind the grove! No, Raymonde would never know, nor Renée, nor Jacqueline… The smell of the wind was on their cheeks. And that downy softness beneath my lips, that fleeting taste, was the bitterness, the shattering sweetness of happiness. But I didn't know it, I didn't know. When the music ended, we heard shadows rustling under the plane trees like a great silk dress. I was drawn by that murmurous solitude at whose end the gate opened on the world. A lure that soon took on the imperious character of need. Wait for me! I'll be back! I whispered solemnly, for myself alone, to my lovers of fifteen. And then I left the festivities at a run. An empty bus with all its lights on seemed to be waiting for me. I counted out the price of a seat with the apprehension of leaving home for the first time. We hurtled through unidentified villages, outlying boroughs like tunnels, then long, deserted boulevards and streets, endless streets. Suddenly it seemed we were passing the place where I was to get off. I tugged on the bell with all my strength, and the bus whose only passenger was me stopped with an appalling shriek at the bottom of a hill (later I remembered the driver had snickered as he left me there). I walked for a long time between walls that drew closer and closer together. The cobblestones grew uneven, I stumbled under the streetlights, aging whores called out to me. The last subway had just left. It must have been very late; rain began to fall. A single desire seized me then: to find a place to sleep. Hesitantly, I entered a narrow hallway where a light glimmered. Just like that pale glow still lay, buried beneath my distress, the senseless hope that I would make it through the night.

Edward Gauvin ( has received fellowships and residencies from the NEA, the Clarion and Fulbright Foundations, the Centre National du Livre, Ledig House, the Banff Centre, and the American Literary Translators' Association. His translation of Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud's selected stories A Life on Paper (Small Beer, 2010) was shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award. Other publications have appeared in Conjunctions, Subtropics, World Literature Today, Epiphany, Tin House, PEN America, The Southern Review, F&SF, and the Harvard Review. The winner of the John Dryden Translation prize, he is the contributing editor for Francophone comics at Words Without Borders, and translates comics for Tokypop, First Second, Lerner, and Archaia.

Marcel Béalu (1908-1993) was best known for the delicacy with which he explored dreams and the unreal in poetry, prose, and painting. A retiring figure, he ran a bookstore, by Paris' Jardin du Luxembourg, named Le Pont Traversé after a novel by his friend, critic and editor Jean Paulhan. There he held readings for a small circle of surrealist and fantastical writers; it is said Lacan, among his first customers, purchased Shakespeare's complete works and forgot to pay for them. Béalu also founded the revue of fantastic writing Réalités secrètes (1955-1971). His work includes four novels and more than seven collections of short-shorts, some of which have appeared in Joyland. His 1945 novel L'Expérience de la nuit was translated by Christine Donougher as The Experience of Night (Dedalus, 1997).