Two Scorched Men

Two Scorched Men

Two Scorched Men


“This is how the two of them went on: laughter on the one hand, rages on the other. They were close friends: one lanky, explosive Irishman, one short, roundish, genial Frenchman. It was an unlikely pairing.” – Two Scorched Men, Margaret Atwood.


Two Scorched Men is a short story by Margaret Atwood that was recently released on Scribd. And what a treat this beautifully written memory of a time in Provance it is!  

The story centres around the friendship of two men; John, an Irishman with a temper and François, a quirky sociable Frenchman. An odd couple who carries a deep bond from their shared experience of living through the second world war. John served in the Royal Navy and took part in the deadly battles in the South Pacific, which he just barely survived, and François as an operative in the French Resistance. It is the type of bond where no explanation is needed. 

Both men tell the stories of their lives to the narrator, not wanting to be forgotten. Perfectly aware that she might one day write their stories down and immortalize them. 

Two scorched men is written with fondness. I feel for these two men whose lives were so heavily impacted by the trauma of war. The narration is colourful and humorous, playing with thought and time, jumping between memories to end at a place where they are all young again. 

“Since I can—since I am the only one left who can—let me dial time backwards so we can spend a happier moment together. The four of us: John and François, and also Tig, and me as well. Already we’re looking younger, as you can see.”

I wonder about this very human trait of not wanting to be forgotten and sharing a story. I think of how storytelling can not only show a person as they are seen through the author’s eyes but also encapsulate a time and teach us of a later generation how a time period not only was but how it felt. The experience of time is not a singular matter or objective, but I think this is what adds so much value to Atwood’s story of these two men.

It is no secret that I am a long time fan of Atwood’s writing, recently writing about The Testaments here on this very blog. I was fortunate enough to see Atwood speak at the Book Festival of the MJCCA this summer where Atwood shared that this is an autobiographical tale that took place in the nineties. When asked about the length of Two Scorched Men, she answered that “a story is as long as the material”, a thought that has stuck with me ever since. 

Margaret Atwood needs no introduction. She is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, critical essays, poetry and graphic novels. Atwood is the name behind impactful literature such as Alias Grace, The Handmaids tale and The Testaments, to name a few. 

Two Scorched Men is exclusive to Scribd and available both as text and on audio.  

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