Short Story #136: The Letter by Edmond Laloux
Title: The Letter
Author: Edmond Laloux
SummaryAt seventy five years old, Daniel Kerguiraud knows that death is quickly approaching. His son and daughter-in-law still visit him and he remained in good health but he knew death was not far away. His daughter-in-law, Marthe, regularly chats with him and one day asks him if the man feels lonely. Daniel explains that he doesn't always feel lonely but he has these moments where he forgets who among his friends is alive or dead and he loves at times, among "the society of those I've lost." In this conversation, it becomes clear that there is a rift between Daniel and his son Abel that Marthe does her best to bridge. After she has left, Daniel stares out the window and daydreams about a woman from his past that he loved dearly but never married. He went up to his room, occasionally reflecting upon the past. He sits down at a desk and writes a letter to the woman, which discusses the how and the why of their relationship and failure to follow through with it. The letter talks of the past and the present and where he is currently with his life. The next scene finds Abel and Marthe talking with the doctor who proclaims Daniel dead, having collapsed on the desk where he wrote the letter. Abel and Marthe read the letter and discover this past love. Abel is startled by idea but finally chalks it up to him and his father never understanding one another.
ReflectionThere is a romantic beauty to this story that makes it enjoyable, despite being sad on many levels. Though Daniel accepts the past, that he still remembers and cherishes this past relationship is noteworthy. He clearly had a fulfilling life afterwards but that he can still look past to decades previously and cherish what this relationship gave him is a wonderful sentiment that I think is often underrated. It's one of the best points about relationships that I think is worth noting and have heard Dan Savage talk about as well. Why does our culture concept of a good or successful relationship have to end in death? I think this story hits upon that in some ways. The other element of the story is of course, the son learning secrets about his father. This idea that our parents are fully-fledged people like ourselves before we come around is still often foreign and hard to make sense of for us. I think this idea of learning about the past of our parents or any one dear to us is always an incentive to do our best to get to know the ones we care about.
Short Story #136 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 5/11/2014
Source: Great French Short Stories edited by M. E. Speare. The World Publishing Company, 1943. You can find this story and others in this anthology at this resource.
For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.
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