(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

On All Saints’ Day, Theodore takes chrysanthemums to place on the grave of his uncle, Alexandre Mortin, with whom he lived as a child and whose heir he has become. At the cemetery, he meets someone who introduces himself as Dieudonne, or Dodo for short, the pet name that Theodore used for his uncle. Theodore takes up residence in the Mortin crypt, where he works at sorting his uncle’s papers.

Alexandre himself never succeeded in organizing his many notes relating to the life of the village; he merely gathered all the gossip and history he could find in his wanderings around the town. Much of the material that he assembled concerned the misdeeds of his neighbors. For example, Magnin’s wife cuckolded him, but rumor also claims that he had an affair with the Cruchet girl. Alexandre’s own sister-in-law also proved to be unfaithful, running off with a Spanish juggler.

Stories also circulate about Alexandre, particularly regarding his relationship with Theodore. According to one version, Alexandre compelled the boy to live with him instead of with the boy’s own mother because they were having a homosexual affair. Another version maintains that Theodore took advantage of his uncle’s debilitated condition to forge a will that left him the sole heir. Other accounts are more sinister still, claiming that Theodore stabbed or strangled his uncle and then robbed him. Still others say that the old man was killed by his housekeeper, Marie, or by...

(The entire section is 459 words.)