Alois Burda loves money. He is a wealthy owner of a car dealership who has many acquaintances but no true friends. He has been married twice and has three children but is uninterested in his family. Prior to his sixtieth birthday, he experiences weight loss, abdominal pain, and night sweats. Burda is diagnosed with inoperable metastatic cancer of the pancreas.

He seems worried most about what to do with his property and money. Before entering the hospital, he hides his money in some old slippers until he can decide what to do with it. He is comforted by a young nurse, Vera, whose voice reminds him of his mother's. After he dies, Burda's wife discards her husband's belongings into a heap of rubbish, unaware of the fortune hidden in his slippers.


In the tradition of Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich, here is another story that explores the life and death of a man who never quite grasped the true meaning of life and is personally corrupted by his infatuation with wealth and success. The twist in this tale is not merely that Burda is incapable of bequeathing his fortune to anyone but also that his money suffers the same fate as its possessor. Burda's life and wealth are equally thrown away.

Wealth is clearly a burden in this story. Compassion and hope seem to belong primarily to the young whereas loneliness appears self-inflicted. Burda realizes that the only person he ever really loved (and who loved him) was his mother. The author acknowledges that each of us chooses what we love most. By adoring money more than anything, Alois Burda lost most everything else.


First published: 1994. Translated from Czech by Gerald Turner.

Primary Source

Lovers for a Day



Place Published

New York



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