D is the André Gorz’s 82-year-old, terminally ill wife, and this short book is a letter written to her about a year before they both committed suicide at the same time, unable to bear the thought of being parted.
Letter to D a beautiful story, augmented by a few lovely photos of the couple (I wanted more, actually). The telling is often very beautiful and poignant, although occasionally it’s surprisingly long-winded for such a short book, particularly in the parts where he’s examining some hurtful lines he wrote about her in his first book The Traitor. It almost feels sacrilegious to criticise him after all that emotional backstory, but that was my reaction. Another problem I had was that although it’s a letter to D, most of the book is about A, André Gorz. D is praised a lot, but mostly for the way she helped him in his career or in his existential struggles. I didn’t get much sense of what she wanted out of life, other than to be with him.
That said, the beauty outweighs the problems. And André Gorz was one of France’s leading 20th-century intellectuals, so there’s plenty of interesting history about intellectual life in mid-century Paris, 1968 etc. Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre figure quite prominently. I related to the couple’s early struggles to be true to their ideals while coping with the practicalities of paying the rent. I liked the way that, over the decades, Gorz came to understand what was truly important in his life, and to let go of so many of the other things that seemed important but weren’t.
In short, Letter to D was an excellent book, but not quite the emotional love-letter I had expected. It’s a love-letter written by a philosopher, emotional in places but mostly analytical and contemplative. I read it in one sitting late at night, and would definitely recommend it to others.