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An American in the French Languedoc

Monsieur Louis Crosses the Line


Every Languedoc village seems to feature a renowned pensioner similar to Monsieur Louis. My previous village, Fabrezan had an octogenarian Monsieur Andre. 

Montseret’s Louis is special in a warped fashion. Whereas Andre is simply ancient and senile, Louis is genuinely perverse and senile. 

He loves to shock and provoke women with sexual innuendos. He particularly infuriates our English neighbor Nora with tales about his withering asparagus. His behavior is as alarming as her reaction amusing. 

If you’re pressed for time, an encounter with Louis is an anchor that will maroon any sea bound ship. He is immune to insult or insinuation for he has unlimited time at his disposal. A conversation with Louis is a meandering country lane destined for no ultimate destination. 

His advanced senility enables menial long-term memory, so each fresh conversation initiates from the identical commencement point. He remembers nothing of the previous content much less your name. 

Monsieur Louis presides at the head of one table at the bi-annual Village feast each summer. His chair is adrift from his neighbors based on their preference. He nods and smiles incessantly to everyone with only token acknowledgement. Habitually he exits silently before the hired band commences the revelry. His subsequent days excursion requires a full evening of repose. 

Louis is a stalking presence within the village, navigating with a cane at a stilted pace the narrow and wandering streets. At this juncture in his life, most doors have been shuttered upon his approach. His few surviving peers and their offspring merely scoff at the mention of his name. The periodic foreign arrivals to the village become his sole short-term audience.  

It is a lonely existence to be a surviving widower in a small village where you’ve alienated everyone. 

Recently he has relocated his performance venue. He hired a morning housekeeper not to clean, but to transport him to the Lezignan railway station. There, an unsuspecting audience can hear his weathered tales about his humble birth (in a wine barn), Occitan ancestry, wine picking career and sexually oriented humor. Fortunately for Louis, this transient audience can evolve into even a wider specter with the uncultivated larger rail stations in Narbonne and Carcassonne. 

Among Louis’ prouder admissions is his avowed admiration for Stalinism. Curiously, Stalin would have lined him up before a firing squad for his scandalous perversity. About the closest communist militancy Louis ever exhibited throughout his eccentric life has been his public display of party membership medals each May Day. The French Communist Party is about as threatening to the social fabric as public graffiti; annoying in threat, impotent in exploit. 

Louis’ ultimate poverty is his lack of discretion, but he is living evidence that most personalities don’t alter despite a lifetime of experience. His pathetic solitude is a daily affront to the attention he desperate desires, but knows will always be withdrawn. 

We have all encountered a Monsieur Louis over the course of existence and perhaps associate with his clone (in developmental stages) on a daily basis. It is a tragic scenario to witness the alienation and deterioration of an individual in their declining years. The dire reality becomes more poignant when we realize our stray perilous comments or future imprudent actions might isolate us to our own personal Siberia. 

Monsieur Louis’ solitary strolls through Montseret may someday represent our own pilgrimage to advanced age…. should we be granted that option. 




Marques Vickers uprooted from Northern California to the Languedoc region of southern France in June 2005. He currently resides in the wine village of Montseret.  

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