In the context of French science fiction author Sylvie Denis' visit to Portland, two of her short stories – Two Lives and Chernobyl Road – have been edited in English by students from the English department of Portland State University.
Maybe the first step towards the translation of Sylvie Denis' works in the United States? In any case, HEARTFELT THANKS to Michele Ford and Amylia Ryan, the editors of the two short stories, and to Annabelle Dolidon, Professor at Portland State University, who initiated this project.
Excerpt of Two Lives
Suryamani Dasi was conceived during the NeoZika epidemic of 2080.
Her family lived in a stilt house in the London Swamp, but her mother, Selina, was from Bangladesh. She remained indoors with Kamalkani, Suryamani’s two-year-old sister, keeping the mosquito screens drawn, spraying them with repellent and making Kamalmani wear long sleeves in the most horrid heat. She watched her neighbors on their flatboats and shouted abuse at them in several languages whenever they told her she could go out because charity-sponsored drones had sprayed good ol’ DDT over the marshes.
Selina had gone to university. The Immigration Office had allowed her to enter England when the organization she was working for had left Bangladesh after the 2060 flood and the ensuing upheaval. She knew DDT was dangerous. She knew mosquitoes adapted. She stayed inside and watched the sluggish waters of the London Swamp. Somehow, it reminded her of her lost home.
And then Anjan, her husband, who had disappeared six months ago during a demonstration, came back.
Suryamani's mom had assumed he had been taken by the police. It happened sometimes. The best thing to do was go completely offline and wait it out. She did, and she cried at night, and she hoped he was in hiding, not dead.
One early morning, as the pale pink sky almost made you forget the stink of sewage, Anjan silently rowed a flatboat along the stilts and climbed up the slippery, mossy stairs of their makeshift house. Selina heard the shifting of the planks and woke up. She knew who it was.
Excerpt of Chernobyl Road
The robot observed the tigers every morning at dawn.
There was nothing strange or mysterious about this, for although its owners had set it to perform very simple tasks, the robot had been endowed with high intelligence and vast memory banks.
From unfathomable depths, it could fish out images of other species of cats large and small and compare them to the living bodies of the Siberian ones it saw every day. The robot owned a collection of pet photos: men’s companions were comfortably sitting on cushions and armchairs, apparently silent and idle in the middle of huge, busy megacities.
It also collected and compared pictures of machines: high-speed trains, motorbikes, tanks, excavators; supple and silent monsters, embodiments of the powers of the earth.
The robot was a powerful machine that, for the whole extent of its short life, had lived alone in one of the planet’s coldest, most desolate areas. As a result, it had formed its own peculiar opinion of what beauty was.
Want to read more? Download the PDF versions of the two short stories: