The Half-Moon Step

David Bosc

French, Editions Verdier, 2022

“Nostalgia is unjust, like everything that preys violently on our hearts, and in my own heart, the little raft that I cobbled together as a child to take me across a sea of boredom and bitterness is as glorious as the splendid galleon of joy on which we’ve been sailing for the last few years. The city of Mahashima—my city, a city once so harsh—has become as gentle as an afternoon dream in its abandonment.”

“Only a predator could get a kick out of eating the last blue bird or taking a plane to a dream island moments before it was engulfed. The good days are the first days—after a harsh winter or a coup. Real spring days.”

It’s called Mahashima, though you probably know it as Marseille. Here, in this former capital of an unimportant kingdom, Ryoshū reflects on how lucky he is to live so joyfully in such a happy place.

Then, one morning, he sets off to revisit the nearby landscapes of his childhood. As he walks along the shore and climbs the hills, he recalls the troubled times of his youth and the whim of power that marked the beginning of the best times ever known in Mahashima—the relocation of the capital. It happened quickly. The powers that be found somewhere else to flaunt their opulence and abandoned Mahashima, leaving the city and its surroundings to their fate.

After the initial euphoria of liberation, the city’s residents need to work out a future for themselves. Ryoshū sees their efforts at collaboration; he sees new buildings go up, new structures put in place, triumphs, and sometimes failures. Along the way, he is witness to the environmental havoc wrought by the ancient civilisation, the unrest and criminality that it left in its wake—but also the resourcefulness and solidarity of the people of Mahashima.

The Half-Moon Step is not set in a particular time or place. The story takes place, perhaps, in the future, but it shines with a forgotten light, and we recognise in it whole swathes of our current era and warrior clans reminiscent of medieval Japan.

What happens when the powers that be retreat, leaving us without bearings? What comes after the revolution? David Bosc tells us that ‘the future won’t sing unless you start singing now, in today’s imperfect world’. Empires are like seasons; they do not last. Such reflections may seem timeless, but Bosc’s novel resonates powerfully with our times.

The Half-Moon Step shows us a world that is overturned (almost) without violence, a world that recovers equilibrium by accepting its own impermanence. In both premise and form, this stunning, lyrical novel is something of a utopia.

Text by Katia Dubey

Le Pas de la Demi-Lune
Editions Verdier
Translation rights
Mathilde Azzopardi,
Publication date
August 2022


David Bosc

David Bosc was born in Carcassonne in 1973 and grew up in the South of France. He currently lives in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he works as editor of foreign literature for the publishing house Noir sur Blanc. After Sang lié and Milo (Allia), David Bosc published with Verdier La Claire Fontaine (2013, Swiss Literature Award), Mourir et puis sauter sur son cheval (2016, Michel-Dentan Prize), Relever les déluges (2017) and Le Pas de la Demi-Lune (2022).

Photo: Wiktoria Bosc