‘The Peacocks’ by Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud, translated by Edward Gauvin

I whole-heartedly recommend reading all of Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud’s stories available in English – which unfortunately, at the moment, encompasses only this single volume. ‘The Peacocks’ is a story of death – the death of the narrator’s lover, Marie, but also, we suspect, the death of everything: it’s apocalyptic poetry which predates The Road by thirty years. In five pages we learn of their life together, increasingly bereft of other people for reasons which are never explained, and the consolations of culture which cannot overcome the sadness at the heart of it. The two peacocks they have been living with provide the most horrific aspect of the denouement. When someone we love dies, it can feel like the end of the world; in ‘The Peacocks’ it is.

First published as ‘Les Paons’ in La Belle Charbonnière, Grasset, 1976. First published in English in A Life on Paper, Small Beer Press, 2010