Excerpts from the book
In all great cities there are quarters which reveal their true character only after dusk. By day they wear a mask, assume a look of amiable good-fellowship that hoodwinks even the astute. All that is needed is a respectably dressed woman showing her little boy the Seine, or four workmen, spade in hand, shovelling a heap of gravel; under these conditions quayside, river-bank and wharves all look smiling and sedate. But, when the nightmists rise, such places wake to a life that is a parody of death. The smiling banks turn livid, dark surfaces grow pale and shine with a sort of funereal brilliance, coming with evil glee into their own again. It is the street-lamp that works the transformation. Under the first ray of this nocturnal sun, the nightscape robes itself in shadows and things begin to undergo marvellous and sinister changes. The sleek sensual trunks of the plane-trees seem suddenly transformed to leprous stone, while the cobbled pavements ape the shades and rich marbling of drowned bodies; even the river-water burns with metallic sheen. There is nothing that does not take on a life-forsaken aspect, sloughing off its familiar daylight form. Here nature is at her strangest; nothing breathes and nothing grows, yet all her features writhe in odd grimaces — a constant theatre of strange, secret activities. Under the broken gleams of lamplight buffeted by the wind, amid the stench of death that hovers over its waters, this dark domain of silence and rats is hospitable only to the thief counting his plunder and the humble debauches of the poor.
— JULIEN GREEN, Épaves (1932)