The Time Traveler’s Almanac: The Gulf of the Years by Georges-Oliver Chateaureynaud


The Gulf of the Years by Georges-Oliver Chateaureynaud

Section: Reactionaries and Revolutionares

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5 Rating

You know what really grinds my gears? This time-travel theory

About the author:

Georges-Oliver Chateaureynaud is a French novelist and short-story writer, with ver one hundred short stories and nine novels to his credit. He has been described as one of the most original contemporary French authors. His words have been compared to Kurt Vonnegut, Franz Kafka, and Julio Cortazar. This story was translated from the French by Edward Gauvin and published for the first time in English in the collection A Life on Paper in 2011.

Before I get to my issue with the time-travel possibility, there was actually nothing else I was too thrilled about. Nothing much happens here (not in a good way, like How the Future Got Better), and narrative style of switching between characters was tad bit confusing.

Manoir is on a train heading back home to see his mother one last time. After he gets off the train, instead of heading to his mother house, he rushes to the elementary school so he can talk to Jean-Jacques Manoir. This is not Manoir’s son, or younger brother, or any type of family that would first come to mind. Jean-Jacques is in fact, Manoir’s younger self. He has traveled back in time to the day his mother died in a bombing attack when he was away at school, and Manoir has comeback in time, to set things right.

Before I get to my issue with the time-travel possibility (and yes, I know I’m repeating that sentence), let me explain that narration style. I did not have problem with the voice. I don’t read French, or have any idea what Chateaureynaud’s prose is like in his native tongue, but I think the translator, Edwin Gauvin, did an excellent job at making this readable. What I have a problem with is how Chateaureynaud decided to narrate it.

It is told from the 3-person, but our narrator will switch randomly between different characters without Chateaureynaud giving us a heads up. The only way you know that a change is coming is when there is a section break. I did not realize this until a few sections in when Manoir, went from be refered to as  “he” to “the stranger” to “cousin”, all depending on whose shoulder the narrator was looking over. The voice of the narrator did slightly change with the character as well, but because there is no indication at the start of the section about who we are following, it can take a bit of time before I know who “he” or “she” is – particularly when we get 3 to 4 characters all in the same room.

My BIG issue was with the time-travel. If you go back in time for whatever reason, it is safe to assume that where ever or whatever your past-self at that time is doing, they are alive and will stay live, because if you were to do something that would kill your past-self, then you would have never been able to go to the past in the first place!!! If you are dead, how could you have comeback? Physically impossible… Unless you are a believe of the multiple time-line theory, in which case, when you go back in time, you create a new time-line (separate from the one you left), so if you kill your past-self, you can still live, because that past-self of you is of a different time-line.

But this begs the question: why would you want to kill your past-self? (See Spoilerfic Speculations for more on this)

Spolierific Speculations: (Highlight to read)


The whole time I was expecting Manoir to go home and save his mom, or at least let his past-self go back to school, because he just wanted to see his mother one last time. What I DID NOT except was for him to murder his neighbor and past-self, along with himself.

I get it, coming back in time to see your mother one last time and die with her – very poetic. But to drag other innocent people into it too? And can you honestly tell me that his mother would have wanted him there too? If she knew the truth, I guarantee she would have told him (both of hims) to get the heck out off there as quick as possible! If my future son came back to me and said I was going to die from a bomb and he came to be with me for it, I’d tell to get out there ASAP and go live!

Also, I’m assuming Manoir must be clinically depressed at this point in his life. He could have just as easily took his past-self and mom, and left the house and lived! Instead though, he basically chose suicide and murder.


If your comments contains a spoiler, please type “SPOILER:” at the start of your comment to alert fellow readers and comments. Thanks!

Maybe Chateaureynaud choose Manoir to be like that on purpose, I don’t know. But without some kind of explanation or back story, I have no idea what motivated him to make the final decision that he made.

As I said, I like the translation of Chateaureynaud’s prose ; I just didn’t like the plot and main character.

Be sure to check out my fellow time-travelers’ reviews!

Alesha Escobar
H.M. Jones
Laurel’s Writing Desk
Timothy C. Ward

2.5/5 Rating



Follow along on Twitter with #TimeTravelThursday

To see a full list of The Time Traveler’s Almanac reviews and reading schedule, visit The Time Traveler’s Almanac Page

Feel free to join in any join time! Just leave a comment down below 🙂

See you next Thursday for Enoch Soames: A Memory of the Eighteen-Nineties by Max Beerbohm

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11 thoughts on “The Time Traveler’s Almanac: The Gulf of the Years by Georges-Oliver Chateaureynaud

  1. Bookwraiths says:

    Damn, that sounds horribly depressing. Can’t say I’m dying to read this.


    • It was not a fun story to read. I don’t mean that as in, emotional stories aren’t fun. I mean that it went from touching, to depressing and sad, without any reason – and that lack of reason and motivation for the character’s final decision is what made this frustrating and NOT a fun read.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tammy says:

    This does seem like a convoluted time travel scenario, it gives me a headache just trying to figure it out, lol!


  3. Yeah. I’m with you. There was no motive and it just felt all wrong. I couldn’t figure out the logic either. Ugh.

    Don’t the French tend towards sortof fatalistic writing? Or something weird… Either way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. aleshaescobar says:

    Wow, time travel from a disturbed person’s perspective (is what this story seems to be). I think your assessment is the same I would’ve given the story.


    • I wouldn’t say that Manoir is disturbed at all. The story is quite touching leading up to the end and he didn’t seem “disturbed” all – but the ending just made no sense in my eyes, and from the story, I can’t draw any reason why he would do what he did.

      Liked by 1 person

      • aleshaescobar says:

        Thanks for shedding light on that. It’s unfortunate that the ending seemed to not show very well why he did what he did.


  5. ***Spoiler**** I disagree about the writing style. It seemed very poetic to me, but not complicated. I liked how it flowed and thought his prose was lovely. I do understand your hang-ups about what happened and how it happened, they just didn’t trip me up as much because it’s set in a very traumatic time. I don’t think we can even conceive of a trauma like our narrator, but I think the writer does a good job really placing himself in a ptsd mindset. He is writing not as a logical thinker but as a person who grew up an orphan to a war bombing in a country that was affected by the mass murdering of Jewish people. That’s a lot of reason to not think clearly, so I didn’t expect his actions to be what I would choose (as someone who does not know what the kind of life would be like). That said, I’m still with you on the paradox that this might create. How can someone who is dead kill himself?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. As I said, I like the prose and voice – I think the translator did a good job – the narrator switching from different character’s shoulder was what was confusing for me at times.

    True; that would make sense, but its not Manoir writing the story (not first person), it’s the author narrator. We don’t know anything about Manoir’s actions other than what the author tells us – and the author gave us no clear indication about what was wrong with his life that would him want to go back and die with mother rather than save her. An explanation to this, and I think I would like it more.


  7. matt schwach says:

    Isn’t it possible he threw himself on them (sacrificed himself) so that Mother would survive with son?


  8. Georgena Sil says:

    English title: “The Gulf of the Years” (2010)
    French title: “La Gouffre des Annees” (1987)

    Does anyone have the original French story? I would like to run it through apps such as Google Translate. I read the English version twice, a year apart. I enjoyed the smooth read and I followed the narrator shifts. But I remain troubled by the ending, by what seems like author laziness. It may not be: The original text may have nuances — very subtle clues, possibly metaphors, allusions, or even puns — that did not survive the translation. It would be interesting to see what turns up via other translators.

    Consider the title — “Gulf” in English becomes either “Golfe” or “Gouffre” in French. The latter is a darker word: it can mean chasm, abyss, or black hole. It would be interesting to explore the interior of the story. Ah well, I just adore time travel stories.


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