Édouard Surin (ay-DWAHR sewr-AHN), a handsome, elegant, irresistible man who divides his time between running the textile factory he inherited from his wife’s father and getting away from the boredom of the country to the excitement of a big apartment in Paris. There, he keeps a mistress while maintaining his affectionate feeling for the wife and many children he leaves behind. Outwardly happy and content with his double life, he secretly longs for a heroic end to it all. As an infantry captain in World War II, he leads an assault on a Belgian town held by the Nazis but is afterward captured. In prison, his health worsens, and he is diagnosed as a diabetic and dismissed from the army. In Paris, he finds a resistance group to join, and his dream of a heroic death is revived, but it is his wife who is recognized as a resistance fighter and sent away by the Germans. Édouard wanders through the displaced persons camps of Europe looking for her and wearing a sandwich board with her picture on it. Four years later, he dies quietly, nearly blind.
Maria Barbara Surin
Maria Barbara Surin, Édouard’s wife and mistress of the big family house, La Cassine. She is the mother of a large brood, the last of whom are identical twin boys that only she can tell apart. Motherhood for Maria Barbara is a blissful state, and into her happiness she incorporates...
(The entire section is 577 words.)