Givers and Thieves
A trip to rural France leads to thoughts about Tolstoy, conviction, and conflicted acts of generosity.
After landing in Paris, from New York, I went straight to the Gare Saint-Lazare to board a train to the town of Valognes in Normandy, a three-hour ride. On the train, I fell into a rushing sleep, then woke with a jolt, worried that I had missed my station. The carriage was empty except for an elderly couple tipsily playing cards, smiling at me in what seemed an invitation to join them. They got off at the station before mine, he with a thick carved cane in each hand, hobbling forward with a determined thrust of his hips, throwing his canes onto the platform and then climbing down, like a man lowering himself into a pool.
My friend Jim, who works at the Times Literary Supplement in London, greeted me in Valognes. He nodded approvingly at my sturdy shoes, which I had bought especially for the trip. “Walking is
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