A mixed lot of stories, some of them pretty strange, written in the 1890s. As I was reading through them, I kept having flashes of thinking of other "sensational" or "popular" nineteenth-century authors, such as Poe or Twain (two authors, incidentally, that Schwob explicitly referred to). Nonetheless, Schwob has a character all his own; for one thing, a taste for gore; for another, a great preoccupation with language to individualize characters and settings. This latter characteristic leads to a proliferation of technical jargon, slang, and dialect that was in places completely impenetrable to this non-native speaker. Would a more widely-read respondent, I wonder, share my involuntary reaction that this author has "an excessively large vocabulary"? Incidentally, because this particularity and localization is such an important part of many of his stories (in his introduction, he identified it as such), it might be impossible to translate some of these stories.
One thing that I noticed was the artful way that the individual stories (all quite short, 36 of them in a thinnish book) were arranged and strung together with shared themes. The second part is in order of the historical setting of each tale, but also each tale shares an element, minor or important, with the one that precedes it. In the first part, there is an overall thematic development that Schwob explains in his introduction, but also the stories are grouped into threes, which I could roughly describe as follows:
"Les Striges", "Le Sabot", "Les Trois Gabelous" : Supernatural dangers
"Le Train 081", "Le Fort", "Les Sans-Gueule" : Real terrors (plague and war)
"Arachné", "L’Homme double", "L’Homme voilé" : Abnormal psychology
"Béatrice", "Lilith", "Les Portes de l'opium" : Quest for the ideal, embodied in a woman
"Spiritisme", "Un Squelette", "Sur les dents" : Grotesqueries of modern society
"L’Homme gras", "Le Conte des œufs", "Le Dom" : Moral tales