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la tristesse

September 9, 2008

The baker has a broken heart. When he opened up shop eighteen months ago, it was a cause of great celebration in the village and the queue for his macaroons and millefeuilles - which were as light as a puff of silk - often tailed onto the square.

When my friends Chris and Laurent visited earlier this year, we did a comparative taste test, buying croissants from the three bakeries - yes three - in the village and René Matout's were by far the best.

But then his buff Latino boyfriend - responsible for the shop's ravishing window displays - left. And things haven't been quite the same since.

Recently, I noticed that René's pains au chocolat were burnt, his bread a little stodgier than usual. Then the toile curtain came down and a sign went up saying that the boulangerie would be closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday's.

When I went to buy croissants on Monday I could tell by the baker's wan, unsmiling face that all was not well. Word on the village square is that he is struggling to pay crippling taxes and that the competition from the third bakery - which opened in the summer - has caused him to lose heart. The more perceptive believe that, if his cakes now lack a certain lightness of touch, it is because the young baker is suffering from an incurable tristesse.

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