At the beginning of Eine blaßblaue Frauenschrift (In a Woman’s Pale Blue Hand), life is going very well for Leonidas Tachezy as he celebrates his fiftieth birthday. Thanks to a lucky break in his student days, his natural abilities and discipline have led him to a high station in Austrian society in 1936. He is a section head in the Alpine republic’s ministry of education, part of the apparatus that takes care of public business year in and year out, regardless of the government of the day. He advises ministers, does their bidding when he judges it a good idea, and remains when they have moved to their next post or been voted out entirely. His good looks and considerable skills on the dance floor enabled him to win the heart of Amélie Paradini, a wealthy heiress whose standing gave him entrée to Vienna’s toniest circles, and whose millions gave him the backing not to care too much what they thought.
The one significant blot on their life is the lack of children. For a time, both had been sad about the failure of their efforts to start a family, but over time, they adjusted. Now they are established, and establishment, regulars at the Opera and at the seasonal balls, a middle-aged couple whose whirlwind romance still shows in their dancing abilities, whose settled routines show in the evident pleasure that they take in each other’s company. Amélie’s background gave Leonidas standing; his success at the ministry showed that more than just birth mattered in modern Austria.
Among the dozen or more congratulatory cards and letters that Leonidas receives with the morning mail on his birthday, one stands out, at least to his eye. The handwriting, a woman’s hand in pale blue ink, is identical to the writing on another letter he received some fifteen years ago. That one, he destroyed unopened. What will he do with this one?