But in “Lena”, Edouard is about sixty-six years old and Lena is about eighty. There is fourteen years between them. In “A Recollection”, during the war, discussing their marriage, that fourteen years would, surely, have seemed an even greater quotient of years, a detail worth mentioning?
It still feels, to me, as though these are fictionalized versions of characters, populating a series of drafts. (Including two other rather short pieces, “Rue de Lille” and “The Colonel’s Child”.)
But whether or not this is the case, Magdalena is an interesting character. The story begins like this: “In her prime, by which I mean in her beauty, my first wife, Magdalena, had no use for other women.”
She “saw women as accessories, to be treated kindly – maids, seamstresses, manicurists – or as comic minor figures, the wives and official fiancées of her admirers.”
And, so, she is kind to them, even though Edouard notes that “…I suspect that she was called some of the senseless things she was called, such as Central European whore’ and ‘Jewish adventuress,’ by women”.
Perhaps this is easier for Edouard to posit given that he apparently wrote Magda/Lena a letter, which she received shortly after she returned following the war (of her war experience, we know nothing), explaining that he had married another woman, substantially younger than he: Juliette.