(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrative of the struggle of a nameless man to preserve his sanity, this story is told through a letter that he addresses to a literary colleague whom he seems to have known since an early age. His letter tells the bizarre story of his marriage to a seemingly nonexistent wife, their eventful flight from Paris to Nice to escape the Germans, and the strange events that arise from their unfortunate separation in Faugères, so close to their destination.

When the narrator gets off the train to get food in Faugères, the train leaves without him—several minutes ahead of schedule. He leaves messages at the train station for his wife, has the station call other stations, and leaves messages with several station agents, all to no avail. He cannot find his wife in Faugères, Montpelier, or Nice, where he finally stays to look for her.

A week later, after the police try to convince the narrator that they have found his wife, he sees her, by coincidence, standing in line outside a store in Nice. She tells him of her misfortunes with the train, how she joined a group of refugees who lent her money to get to Nice, and how she boarded the wrong train but finally made it to Nice.

Reunited, they start the task of applying for exit visas to the United States. Soon afterward, however, the narrator’s wife tells him that she lied about her disappearance. She admits that she had really been staying with “a brute of a man” whom she met on the train. This throws their...

(The entire section is 614 words.)