From the Desk of Daniel Varsky Summary

Synopsis

"From the Desk of Daniel Varsky" is a short story by award-winning author Nicole Krauss. It is a story about loss and loneliness, poetry and love, as well as an odd desk that haunts the narrator's memories.

Daniel Varsky is a fictional poet from Chile. For a brief period of time—one day to be exact—Varsky and the narrator meet in New York City. Varsky is on his way back to Chile; the narrator has recently separated from her boyfriend of two years and needs furniture. Varsky is leaving his furniture with the narrator on terms that she will take care of it and return it when he returns. She does take care of the furniture, including a desk with many drawers, but Varsky never comes back.

Varsky is a talented poet, in the narrator's point of view, but he is young and unknown. He dies in relative obscurity at the hands of political terrorists. Chile at this time is being torn apart under the tenure of Augusto Pinochet after his 1973 military coup. Although Varsky plays a minor role in his country's political struggle, he gets caught in the violence and disappears.

The narrator laments the loss of this young poet she barely knew. Varsky had kissed her the one day they spent together reading poetry and talking politics. The narrator received several postcards from Varsky over the next few months, but then their correspondence stopped. She has nothing of him except for the furniture, which she thought would only be a temporary holding. But after she hears of Varsky's death, she continues to feel responsible for the man's belongings. She takes the furniture with her wherever she moves and into whatever relationship she is later involved, even into her short-lived marriage and subsequent divorce.

The desk, she states at the end of the story, has one drawer that is locked. She does not have the key, so she merely guesses at what the locked drawer might hold. She never attempts to force it open.

"From the Desk of Daniel Varsky" was first published in Harper's Magazine in 2007. In 2008, the short story was chosen for the prestigious The Best American Short Stories collection.

Ed. Scott Locklear