After many adventures, Dr. Silvestre Paradox, a short, chubby man of about forty-five years, settles in a small Valencian town. Tiring at last of his quiet life, he announces one morning to his friend, Avelino Diz, his intention of taking a trip to Cananí, on the Gulf of Guinea. A British banker, Abraham Wolf, is setting out on his yacht Cornucopia with a party of scientists and explorers to establish a Jewish colony in Africa, and he has invited Paradox to go with him. Paradox suggests that Diz join the expedition.
In Tangier they meet several other members of the party, including General Pérez, his daughter Dora, and a disabled, scarred soldier named Hardibrás. They drink to the success of the venture with whiskey. When someone in the party feeds whiskey to a rooster, the fowl breaks into human speech and deplores what humans drink. Paradox declares that only nature is just and honorable. He is eager to go where people live naturally.
The group boards the yacht, Hardibrás swinging himself aboard by the hook he wears in place of his lost hand. There, Paradox and Diz meet others of the expedition: Mingote, a revolutionist who had tried to assassinate the king of Portugal; Pelayo, who had been Paradox’s secretary until his employer fired him for crooked dealings; Sipsom, an English manufacturer; Miss Pich, a feminist writer and former ballet dancer; and The Cheese Kid, a former French cancan dancer. Wolf himself is not on board. He is conferring with Monsieur Chabouly, a French chocolate king who also is emperor of Western Nigritia, in an attempt to establish peaceful diplomatic relations between Chabouly’s domain and the new state of Cananí.
The yacht heads out to sea. On the third day, stormy waves wash the captain overboard. The mate and the crew are drunk, so Paradox and two others are forced to take over the yacht. Paradox, alone at the wheel, converses with the wind and the sea, who tell him that they have wills of their own. Yock, his dog, admires his master’s resolution and strength and declares that he is almost worthy of being a dog.
As the storm increases in fury, the mast breaks and crashes upon the deck. Paradox calls the passengers together and suggests that one of them, Goizueta, be appointed captain because of his maritime experience. Goizueta is elected. His first act, after saving one bottle of brandy for medicine, is to throw the rest of the alcohol overboard.
For a week they sail through heavy fog that never lifts to reveal their position. At last the ship’s coal runs out, and they drift. One night some of the passengers and crew, Miss Pich, Mingote, and Pelayo among them, steal the only lifeboat and desert the ship.
When the fog lifts, the passengers see a beach not far away. The yacht strikes a rock, but all are able to save themselves on rafts that they load with supplies from the ship. The next morning the yacht breaks up, leaving the party marooned on an island. It is then proposed that Paradox...
(The entire section is 1229 words.)