“The Society Tiger” or “The Fashionable Tiger” (“Le tigre mondain”), by Jean Ferry
Translated by Jean Stewart in the anthology French Short Stories 1 / Nouvelles Francaises 1: Parallel Text; also translated by Edward Gauvin here on WeirdFictionReview.com; also translated and anthologized by J. H. Matthews in The Custom House of Desire: A Half-Century of Surrealist Stories (on Google Books here); the original seems to be available as a reprint here
1,359 words in Gauvin’s translation
A fascinating vignette, or essay, or story, or whatever it is. That last line always feels like a letdown to me, as though the narrator had to tie things up hastily without any particular conclusion. And in fact he* admits, early on, that the number is put on less and less frequently these days. The danger lies in the past rather than lurking in some indefinite place—the opposite of the technique usually used in a horror story. It’s as though he were primarily concerned with relating something personal or historical and doesn’t know what it may mean for his audience.
I like “society tiger” as a translation of “tigre mondain.” I don’t know French well but “mondain” seems to come from a root meaning “the world” and to suggest high society. In contemporary English a fashionable tiger sounds like it means a well-dressed tiger, without connoting much about social class or status.
*In a first-person narrative that lacks definite gender markers, I’m reluctant to pick a pronoun, but this narrator does seem vaguely male to me.