To See Out the Night by David Clerson

"Who knows the end? What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men." — H. P. Lovecraft

That quote by the master of “weird fiction” nicely summarizes the contents of QC Fiction’s latest release, To See Out the Night by David Clerson, which was translated by Katia Grubisic. The twelve short stories by Mr. Clerson live in the dream world, as do many of his characters. If you read his previous QC Fiction release, Brothers, then you’ll know what I mean (“He woke ready to paint the world the shade of nightmares.”). For as in a dream (or nightmare) where anything can happen to familiar places, persons and situations, the same can be said of the writings of Mr. Clerson. Perhaps Mr. Clerson has found the secret to capturing dreams he has had. I know I wish I could do the same. I am always amazed at the detail in my dreams, not so much the people and events, but the fantastical, yet familiar settings that occur almost nightly, some more vivid than others.

The common denominator in these stories is death, decomposition, life arising out of death (think mushrooms) and even a tumour that lives on after being cut out from a man’s body. H.P. Lovecraft, who loved to dream, would have enjoyed these stories, I’m sure.

While I certainly liked all of the stories here, one of my favourite ones is “City Within” in which the narrator, after finishing his night shift, wanders the unreal world of Montreal’s underground city. It is composed of numerous subbasements, parallel corridors, trapdoors, and staircases that are few and unreliable to use to access other floors.

Staircases are pretty rare. I know there are some that span several floors, though it's impossible to actually access any of them, until a door might open five or six landings down. Obviously exploring floors that appear at first to be com pletely cloistered becomes a fixation. 
Over the course of several visits, I finally found a way to get to every floor except the third, which is still impenetrable: I couldn't find a door or a trapdoor to get in. When I climb up a staircase that crosses the third floor, and I bang against the wall, I can hear an echo behind it, though whether it's accessible or whether there is only an enclosed, unreachable space, I don't know. 
The fourth subbasement has particularly low ceilings. You have to get around on your hands and knees, sometimes even crawling. The rooms there, on the other hand, are vast, wide expanses through which I inch along, dragging myself across the floor with my elbows or on my stomach. In the sixth subbasement, the ceilings are surprisingly high-you'd have to be three times my height to touch them...

Upon exiting this underground maze, the narrator finds it is almost daylight, thus he has spent most of the night exploring. He then goes home, only to dream he is back in the underground world, but there is someone else there, a mysterious woman named Camille. He then goes to work tired from lack of sleep and arrives at the only solution: live and sleep down there permanently. This reminds us of those dreams we don’t wish to awake from, or if we do, we desire to get back to sleep to continue the adventure if possible (which it usually isn’t).

If you are looking for something a little different in a short story format, look no further than David Clerson’s To See Out the Night. Who knows, perhaps your dreams will be influenced by one of these weird dream stories.

David Clerson was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, in 1978 and lives in Montreal. His first novel, Brothers, also translated by Katia Grubisic for QC Fiction, was a finalist for the Governor-General’s Literary Award for Translation and a National Post Book of the Year.

Katia Grubisic is a writer, editor, and translator. She has been a finalist for the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry, and her collection of poems What if red ran out won the Gerald Lampert Award for best first book. She has published translations of works by Marie-Claire Blais, Martine Delvaux, and Stéphane Martelly. Her translation of David Clerson’s first novel, Brothers, was shortlisted for the Governor-General’s Award for translation.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ QC Fiction; 1st edition (Sept. 15 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 150 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771862688
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771862684

James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. He began TMR in 2015, realizing that there was a genuine need for more book reviews of Canadian literature. It has since become Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases. James has been interviewed about TMR on CBC Radio and other media sites. James works as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist and lives in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.