Darkscapes by Anne-Sylvie Salzman. Book review

darkscapesDARKSCAPES by Anne-Sylvie Salzman, Tartarus Press, Hardcover  £ 35.00 / e-book £ 3.50

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Anne-Sylvie Salzman (aka Anne-Sylvie Homassel) is a French writer and translator ,and the co-editor of the supernatural literary magazine Le Visage Vert. She’s the author of two novels and a short story collection (Lamont). Her first appearances in English have been in the Strange Stories anthologies published by  Tartarus Press, which has now collected fifteen of her tales, translated from French by William Charlton.

Salzman displays a vivid imagination, a knack for the weird and the fantastic, and a very elegant prose. Obviously it’s not easy to ascertain how much the musical phrasing and the exquisite wording belong to the writer and how much to the excellent translation.

Whatever the truth, the book is an enticing collection as for  the  narrative style, although the stories are not always fully accomplished in terms of plot and characters, now and then remaining (intentionally or unintentionally)  a bit blurred.

To me, among  the best stories are “Meannanaich”  a gentle, sad fairy tale about a dead child and her lonely father, and “The Opening”, an Aickmanesque, enigmatic piece taking place on a beach crowded by people and dogs, where reality has an odd ambiguity.

The highlights of the volume are two really outstanding stories.

“Child of Evil Stars” is a splendid piece , graced by an eerie, unsettling atmosphere, depicting the tragic obsession of a respected lung specialist for a freak, one-eyed girl exhibited in a circus.

“Lamont” is a spellbinding, cryptic tale of love and obsession where an elusive girl becomes an inner ghost affecting a lonesome young man.

In spite of the uneven quality of the tales, the present collection represents a very interesting showcase for an author endowed with an enormous talent who shall certainly provide more mature and consistent work in the near future.