The narrator, a country doctor, formerly an obstetrician and deputy director on the staff of a large urban hospital. This aging physician has settled in Kuppron, a remote Alpine village, to get over a failed love affair with a fellow doctor named Barbara (about whom he reminisces at length) and in search of a purer lifestyle. He is fascinated by the archaic mountain madness that he witnesses and by the atavistic surfacing of primal drives and delusions among the inhabitants. In various ways, the doctor attempts to atone for a certain guilt incurred by allowing himself to get caught up in the mass hysteria.
Marius Ratti, a mysterious stranger in his thirties whose appearance one spring marks the beginning of something sinister, barbaric, and demonic in the isolated mountain community. The embodiment of a malevolent mysticism, this Pied Piper with Italianate curly hair and mustache is a curiously charismatic catalyst as he inveighs against the corrupt capitalistic cities and preaches a primordial purity, chastity, misogyny, metaphysical machismo, and regressive social structure based on hate-filled power. Ratti urges the abandonment of such devilish devices as radios and assures the impoverished villagers that gold may once again be mined from the mountain. After civilization reasserts itself, Ratti extends his triumph by becoming a member of the municipal council.
(The entire section is 486 words.)