Skip to content

Get a message when new translations are published

Joseph Olenin’s Coat

First page, Le Manteau de Joseph Olénine, ‘Les Lettres et les arts’, July 1886, illustrated by Saint-Elme Gautier

My translation of Eugène-Melchior de Vogüé’s story ‘Le Manteau de Joseph Olénine’ – Joseph Olenin’s Coat – has been republished today by Bewildering Stories.

Back in 2016 it was published in a print journal, The Cossack Review, which unfortunately is now defunct. I’m very grateful to the editor of Bewildering Stories for giving it a new life.

To give you a taste I’ll post some of the original illustrations in the July 1886 edition of Les Lettres et les arts, with matching excerpts.

Le Manteau de Joseph Olénine, illus. J. Chelmonski

At the post-house in Tashan — one of those poor hamlets lost in the gorse bushes of a pond, and called Khoutres in Little Russia — I was torn away from my reading by the voice of my friend Stepan Ivanovitch, the post master, who made me come into his house for a glass of tea.

Le Manteau de Joseph Olénine, illus. M. H. Gray

Each time I approached the desk, my eyes would meet the polonaise; she was lying on the sofa in the half-light of the lamp, with the sort of fantastic, life-like demeanor that long-worn garments have of an evening. Sometimes she seemed to be stirring, sitting up.

Le Manteau de Joseph Olénine, illus. J. Chelmonski

Into the lighted space came a woman’s two small feet emerging from a long men’s coat. My eyes lingered on the coat: it was mine, my old fox-fur pelisse!

Joseph Olenin and the Countess having tea, illustration by M. H. Gray

She asked the servant for some tea; by the accent of the first Russian words she spoke, I recognized she was Polish, a Polonaise. Everything about her betrayed this particularly formidable family in the female species: the electric gaze, the poisonous perfume, the serpentine suppleness, the unconscious provocativeness of every bit of frippery from her heels to the very last curl of her hair.

Le Manteau de Joseph Olénine, illus. J. Chelmonski

I ran to the dear object and covered it with furtive kisses. The countess, who was spying on me, appeared in a doorway, laughing earnestly.

Le Manteau de Joseph Olénine, illus M. H. Gray

I followed her onto the ponds where she would take her pleasure at skating. When she stumbled as she raced along, I was behind her, trembling with fear that in some fall or other my treasure would be torn; I was ready to catch it in my arms and save it.


Hop over to Bewildering Stories to read it all. You’ll be pleased you did! The editor has also included a challenge question: In Eugène-Melchior de Vogüé’s Joseph Olenin’s Coat, is Olenin’s coat fetish ever resolved to his and the Countess’ mutual satisfaction?

Please let me know if you have an answer!


Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *