In this story, readers do not meet Ernst the day-actor, but Ernst out-of-uniform.
But his experiences of war have little connection to his outward garb and he is always in uniform.
“Is there a horror in a memory if it was only a dream?”
The story slips between time and place in a disjointed and jarring fashion, like fabric torn rather than snipped.
And just as Ernst pins together the curtains in Willi’s room – to keep out the light, the world, the remnants of war – his attempts to navigate the present-day are pinned loosely and ineffectually.
Around him, he views scenes of vulnerability and loneliness, disappointment and damage. This is as close as Ernst can get to living.
I wonder how Ernst and Willi fare in the other two stories Mavis Gallant wrote about them.
Note: This is part of a series of posts on Mavis Gallant’s stories, as I read through her short fiction. This is the fourth story in The Pegnitz Junction. Please feel free to check the schedule and join in, for the series, or for a single story; I would love the company. Next story, next week: “O Lasting Peace”.