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The City of Your Final Destination

September 13, 1995

Ms. Caroline Gund
Ms. Arden Langdon
Mr. Adam Gund
Ochos Rios
Tranqueras, Uruguay

Dear Ms. Gund, Ms. Langdon, and Mr. Gund:

I am writing to you because I have been told you are the executors of Jules Gund's literary estate. I am seeking permission to write an authorized biography of Mr. Gund.

I am a doctoral student at the University of Kansas. On the basis of my thesis, "Remember That? Well Forget It: The Articulation of Cultural Displacement and Linguistic Dismemberment in the Work of Jules Gund," I have been awarded the Dolores Faye and Bertram Siebert Petrie Award for Biographical Studies. This award, which includes publication by the University of Kansas Press of the Gund biography as well as a generous research stipend, is contingent upon my receiving authorization from my subject's estate. I hope you will agree that a well-researched biography of Jules Gund written by me would be in the best interest of his estate. I feel sure that the biography I plan to write, coupled with the burgeoning interest in Holocaust studies and Latin American literature, would markedly increase the amount of attention paid to the presently overlooked work of Jules Gund. This attention would enhance and secure the reputation of Mr. Gund, which would invariably result in increased sales of his book.

In order that you may fully consider my request, I am enclosing a sample chapter and table of contents of my thesis. (Of course, I would be happy to send you the entire thesis if you would like to see it.) I amalso enclosing a copy of my curriculum vitae, and the letter endorsing this project from the University of Kansas Press. I hope that after perusing this material, you will agree that I am uniquely qualified to research and write the comprehensive and sympathetic biography that Mr. Gund undoubtedly deserves.

Because I must furnish proof of authorization to the Fellowship Committee by November 1 in order for them to process the initial payment by year's end, I would appreciate your earliest possible response. I have taken the liberty of enclosing an authorization form herewith, should you feel ready to grant authorization at this time. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have about this project. You may call me, collect, at the number above.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. I look forward to your response.


Omar Razaghi

Chapter Two

Adam stood before the mirror and tried to tie his bow tie. He was having an unhappy time of it. Some of his difficulty could be attributed to the fact that his hands shook, but it also appeared as though he had forgotten how to create a bow. Yet he persisted, unloosening the unsatisfactory and ugly knots he formed, straightening the fabric wings, and beginning again. And again and again. He did not seem to grow aggravated at his lack of success; he seemed to have the belief that at some time, almost despite himself, a bow might form.

Pete, who was leaning over the banister on the third-floor landing, watched with no expression for about five minutes and then began down the stairs. At the sound of his descent Adam stopped his struggle with the tie but did not look up.

Pete appeared behind Adam and, standing so that they almost touched, reached around and grasped the tie. As their two faces watched in the mirror, he created a perfect bow out of the formerly recalcitrant fabric. Although the bow was perfect Pete adjusted it a little and then readjusted it (to restore its perfection) and then patted it lightly and said, "There you are."

"Thank you," said Adam. He touched Pete's hand, and held it against the bow. "Where would I be without you?"

"Right here, probably," said Pete.

"Yes. But sans tie. Or at least sans bow."

"So you would be better off. I don't know why you're wearing a tie."

"I was taught that one should always wear a tie when one ventures forth into society."

"Is dinner with Arden and Caroline society?" asked Pete.

"It is practically all the society we have," said Adam. "Or I should say I. Perhaps you have society of which I know not. Do you?"

"No," said Pete. They were still both looking into the mirror, talking to their reflections. Pete leaned his head closer and rested his chin on Adam's shoulder. Adam reached up and stroked Pete's dark hair. He had lovely long hair, Pete. They observed their reflection: an old man of European lineage, a young man of Asian descent.

And then Pete raised his head and stepped a bit away, so that his face disappeared from the tiny world of the mirror.

"Ready to go?" asked Adam.

"Yes," said Pete. "Do you want to walk, or should we drive?"

"It is a lovely evening," said Adam. "I want to walk."

"But what about coming back? Will you want to walk then?"

"I don't know," said Adam.

"Because if you'll want to drive home, we should take the car now."


"So that we will have it there, to drive back in."

"But you could always walk back for it, and drive up to get me."

"Yes, but it would be easier to take it now."

"I'm not sure I follow you," said Adam. "If we walk home, we walk home. And if we decide to drive you'll walk back for the car. So either way you will walk back, won't you?"

"Not if we drive up."

"Oh, but I want to walk up. Of that I am sure."

"Are you sure? How's your leg?"

"It is the same as always."

"Why don't you see the doctor?"

"Because he is a terrible doctor and there is nothing really wrong with me."

"Your hands shake. And your legs ache."

"And I am old. It all corresponds."

"So we should drive."

     "No. I am old, but I can walk to the big house, and perhaps, depending how late it is and how much I eat and drink and what sort of mood I am in, walk back. We shall see." He looked back into the mirror. "Thank you for tying my tie. I look very handsome in it, I think. I have always liked this tie. I bought it in Venice, in fifty-five. It is important to buy beautiful things when you are happy. I look at this tie"—Adam touched the bow at his throat—"and I remember how happy I once was."

"Why were you happy?"

"I forget. Who knows? It is enough to remember the fact of the happiness. I'm sure I was happy. Otherwise I would never have bought such a beautiful tie."

"It's not so beautiful now," said Pete. "It's stained."

"Is it?" Adam leaned toward his reflection. "It looks fine to me. I am really happy to be losing my sight. Everything looks fine to me. It is the best evidence I know that there is a God."


"That he dims our vision as we age. Otherwise it would be too horrible to bear. Especially for those who were beautiful when they were young."

"Were you beautiful when you were young?"

"I wasn't so terribly ancient when we met. I thought I still retained some of my beauty then. I must have. Otherwise, how could I ever have attracted you?"

Pete did not answer. Adam turned away from the mirror and faced his companion. Pete had opened the door. The evening light fell upon his handsome face. He was looking out at the little cobbled yard in front of the millhouse. A cat sat at the foot of the steps.

"Chuco wants his dinner," said Adam.

"Chuco can wait. If we're going to walk, we should leave now, or we will be late," said Pete.

Adam realized Pete was angry. Lately he seemed angry all the time, but it was an odd, private, submerged anger. He must be very angry not to feed Chuco, whom he loved. He will not feed Chuco to punish me, thought Adam. "We can take the car now," said Adam. "Perhaps I am too tired to walk."

Pete turned away from the door and looked at him. "No," he said. He bent down and picked up the cat. The cat looked away. "Just let me feed this little pig."

Portia was sitting at the round table in the courtyard drawing and labeling a map of South America. It was an assignment for school. She was a day student at the convent school in Tranqueras. The courtyard was surrounded on three sides by wings of the large house and on the fourth side by a stone wall. There was an archway in the center of the wall, and a small, round fountain in the middle of the courtyard. Arden, her mother, came out of the kitchen door, her hands full of tablecloth and napkins and cutlery, and stood behind Portia for a moment, watching her color Uruguay gold. The rest of South America was green, all different shades of green, like fields seen from an airplane.

"Why are you making it gold?" Arden asked.

For a moment Portia did not answer. She was eight years old and had recently discovered that the withholding of information is a kind of power. "Because," she finally said.

Excerpted from The City of Your Final Destination © Copyright 2002 by Peter Cameron. Reprinted with permission by Plume. All rights reserved.

The City of Your Final Destination
by by Peter Cameron

  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Plume
  • ISBN-10: 0452284309
  • ISBN-13: 9780452284302