Neglected for decades, interest in Belgian author Madeleine Bourdouxhe’s work has seen a resurgence and I’m delighted that A Nail, A Rose was reprinted in translation in 2019. I came across this collection in the original French, via something I read years ago by Simone de Beauvoir, and tried to translate it very badly. Written in the aftermath of the Nazi occupation of France, and admired by the Existentialists and the Surrealists alike, these stories are unforgettable tales of ordinary women who burn with desire, suffer with loss, and live rich fantasy lives.
‘Louise’ is the first and possibly my favourite story in this astonishing collection. It focuses on the travails, rich inner world and fantasies of a woman who works as a maid in the day and at night wanders the streets, imagining her lover, dressed in a coat borrowed from her wealthy employer. It’s a story – and a collection – to treasure.
First published in English in The Atlantic, April 1954, and available to read here. Also available in A Nail, A Rose, Pushkin Collection, 2019