Monsieur Daron, an eighty-six-year-old-man, comes to live at the new spa in Rondelis. He believes himself to be in excellent health, as a result of "careful living." He has always had "an obsessive fear of death," and he avoids all pleasure because it may be dangerous.

In order to measure and monitor his own condition, M. Daron arranges for the doctor in charge of the springs to visit him once a week with information on the health of everyone else in the surrounding area who is over the age of eighty. When he hears that someone has died, he quickly identifies a cause that might have been avoided; the man who died of pleurisy should not have gone out in the cold, and the one who died of dysentery must have eaten the wrong food.

Eventually, though, one old man dies for no apparent reason. The doctor can report no lesion, no disease: "He died because he died, that's all." M. Daron is horrified and asks the man's age. Eighty-nine. He laughs in relief, saying, "whatever it was, it wasn't old age . . . ."


A pithy account of our unwillingness to accept that illness and death are largely beyond our control. M. Daron is determined to believe that he owns and can completely determine his body and his health, and, therefore, his death. This is emphasized by his speech, with its emphatic use of the word "my," as in "my life," "my arms," and even "my doctor."

Even at the end of the story, he denies his resemblance to the man who has died, clinging to the illusion that "careful living" will be enough keep him alive. In the process, his life is entirely focused on avoiding death, and he is unable to use or enjoy the time he has. A telling antidote to our present obsession with the power of the individual healthy lifestyle.

Primary Source

Selected Short Stories


Penguin Classics

Place Published

New York



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