Books: Pain, Joy & Wonder

ACROSS PARIS AND OTHER STORIES (254 pp.) -Marcel Ayme -Harper ($3.50).

To France's Marcel Ayme, 56, literary art is the science of the impossible. Characters in Across Paris, a collection of twelve remarkable short stories, walk through walls, don seven-league boots, and play chess with stuffed owls. If the meanings are not always crisp and clear, the prose is. In his stories as in his novels (The Barkeep of Blemont, The Second Face) Author Ayme follows one rule: put all of life's ironies in the creative fire.

In The Walker-Through-Watts a meek, middle-aged government clerk named Dutilleul fumbles for the light switch in...

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