Aléxandre Mortin (ah-lehk-SAHNDR mohr-TA[N]), a failed author and would-be historian. At the age of twenty, he published some poems in the Fantoniard, the local newspaper, and then earned a scant living as a hack writer. With his small mustache; old, greasy hat; and pince-nez glasses, he was a common sight in the village of Fantoine as he went about collecting all forms of printed matter—newspapers, advertisements, and catalogs—and gossip in an effort to chronicle the history of his family and region. Given to drink and perhaps senile in his later years, he never organizes all the papers he accumulates. His death is mysterious; various accounts claim that he died of a heart attack, committed suicide, was strangled or poisoned, or was stabbed by his maid, by her nephew, or by his own nephew and heir. Aléxandre’s failure to make sense of the information he has gathered, like the multiple accounts of his death, reveals the impossibility of knowing, the uncertainty of what passes for truth.
Théodore (tay-oh-DOHR), Aléxandre Mortin’s godson and nephew, or great-great-nephew, and heir. As a child, he may have lived with Aléxandre, whom he affectionately called Dieudonne or Dodo, because his own mother was too poor to support him or because Aléxandre bribed her and kept the boy as his...
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