The novel begins on the twenty-fourth of December in Paris. As Juan spends Christmas Eve alone in a gloomy restaurant, he examines the relationship between thought, word, and action and he questions the value of reasoning itself. The deceiving nature of memory is then explored in passages which change swiftly and without warning from a first-to a second-and third-person narrator. Glimpses of specific details of what is going to happen, or has already happened, are introduced mostly through Juan’s thoughts. In the midst of a labyrinthine beginning, which will set the tone of the text, some explanation is provided as to what constitutes the city and the paredros, key elements in the book.
For a great part of the novel, the friends are scattered in different European cities. In London, Marrast, Nicole, Calac, and Polanco amuse themselves at the expense of the British and their sense of decorum. Yet if a museum and the streets of London offer the possibilities of freedom and games, inside their room of the Gresham Hotel Marrast and Nicole live their last days together. Nicole is in love with Juan, and Marrast becomes the frustrated witness of her melancholy. Their exasperating state of mind is portrayed carefully by the use of dialogue, inner reflections, or letters.
At the same time, Juan is translating for an international conference in Vienna, accompanied by Tell. Tell, the crazy Dane, as Juan calls her, makes him forget the treachery of language, and her sense of humor relieves him from the pain of his unrequited love for Hélène. In their pursuit of play, they decide to follow the steps of Frau Marta—a gray, repulsive old lady—whom they have watched develop a bizarre friendship with a young English female tourist. Tell and Juan couple their wish of adventure with the historical background of a legend and become detectives in a modern story of vampirism.
In Paris, the attention is focused on Hélène, an...
(The entire section is 797 words.)