Timbuktu (Maupassant)

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Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A French officer encountered a former African soldier in Paris who had become a successful restaurateur after their time together during the Franco-Prussian War, where they shared adventures and hardships.

In the midst of a bustling crowd in Paris, two officers were approached by a tall, potbellied, and bedizened Negro named Timbuktu.

Timbuktu — tall, potbellied African man; former soldier; resourceful, jovial, and loyal.

One of the officers, a major, recognized him from their time together during the war of 1870. Timbuktu was a former African prince who had joined the French army and had a knack for finding ways to get drunk and steal from the enemy.

During the war, Timbuktu and his fellow soldiers were known for their cunning and resourcefulness. They once managed to kill several Prussian officers and steal their horses, earning the admiration of their French comrades. Timbuktu was also known for his deep pocket, which he used to store all sorts of shiny objects he found during the war.

As the war continued and food became scarce, Timbuktu managed to find ways to feed himself and his fellow soldiers, although the source of the food was never revealed. He was also known for his loyalty and devotion to his fellow soldiers, once offering his coat to the major during a snowstorm.

After the war, Timbuktu opened a successful restaurant in Paris, using his skills as a cook and his reputation as a former soldier to attract customers. The major, now a colonel, was proud of Timbuktu's achievements and saw his restaurant as a symbol of French resilience in the face of adversity.

Me like you much, Lieutenant Védié, siege of Bézi, we hunt much grapes.

The Lieutenant, who served with Timbuktu during the war, was observant and compassionate.

The Lieutenant — narrator; French officer who served with Timbuktu during the war; observant, compassionate.

He noticed the sign that Timbuktu had prepared for his restaurant in Paris, which read:

M. Timbuktu's Military Kitchen, Late Cook to H.M. The Emperor, Parisian Artist—Moderate Prices

At the end of the story, the Lieutenant reflects on the loss of the town they fought for during the war, but also acknowledges Timbuktu's success as a symbol of hope and resilience, saying, "Today Bézières belongs to Germany. The Restaurant Timbuktu is the beginning of our revenge."