Chapters 1-2 Summary
Udo Berger and his girlfriend, Ingeborg, are vacationing in the Costa Brava, a beachfront resort in the Catalonia region of Spain. Their hotel, the Del Mar, is a repository of memory for Udo, who is nostalgic for his childhood vacations spent with his brother and parents, his quirky and permissive Aunt Giselle, and José―a summer friend who worked at the Del Mar ten years ago. Uppermost in his wistful memories is Frau Else, the hotel's proprietor, who was kind to him as a child and whom Udo found beautiful and mysterious. His glimpse of Frau Else inspires an onrush of memory. He finds her ageless, and he looks forward to meeting her again.
Udo notes that both he and the hotel row, the Paseo Marítimo, have "come up in the world." The Del Mar is more luxurious, and he is a man now with a girlfriend whose beauty he is proud of, friendships he finds deep and meaningful, good health, and a steady job. He rhapsodizes about Ingeborg and hopes to marry her someday. She sleeps while Udo records his restless thoughts. Ingeborg hopes to enjoy the beach, the bars, and her Florian Linden detective novel for the weeks they spend in the Costa Brava. Udo intends to work.
Udo is disappointed that Frau Else does not remember him. He reports that after explaining at length who he is, even dredging up "some rather evocative incidents" he would rather not have, she recalls his mother and Aunt Giselle. Nevertheless, in her eventual response, "You've grown so much," he believes he detects subtle meanings.
Udo reveals that the diary he is keeping is an exercise suggested by his best friend, Conrad, to improve his writing. Udo wishes to prevent any defects in his writing by detracting from the content of his articles, which are published in "specialized journals." He is incensed by readers who, despite his stature as a champion in his field, insist on picking apart his grammar. He believes he is especially undermined by certain people in Stuttgart and Cologne who resent his having defeated them at a championship wargame. He rails against anonymous copy editors and one editor in particular who refused to publish one of his articles on the excuse of clumsy writing. On reflection, however, Udo is soothed by the accolades of fellow wargamers whose admiration he values.
The work that Udo does requires a large table, which he has requested to be sent...
(The entire section is 675 words.)
Chapters 3-4 Summary
Udo's diary entry records the minutiae of his and Ingeborg's breakfast, its cheapness compared to eating at the hotel, and the fact that the old cafe proprietors of his childhood are gone, replaced by people who speak Catalan. They join Charly and Hanna on the beach near the pedal boats; Udo studies the boats as the women talk about Charly's drinking problem and his passion for windsurfing, as well as Hanna's past with a guy from Oberhausen. The pedal boat renter emerges from the water, engaged in business. His head, neck, and chest are scarred from a severe burn, a feature that overshadows his powerful build, long hair, and otherwise dark skin. Hanna says that she would kill herself rather than be scarred like that, and Udo notes the ease with which he imagines her "covered in burns, screaming and wandering blindly around her hotel room."
Later, Udo sets up the wargame he intends to write about while Ingeborg, Hanna, and Charly go shopping. Udo thinks about Frau Else and estimates that she is about thirty-five―ten years older than himself. He thinks about Conrad and compares his own preference for daytime work to Conrad's nighttime activity. Conrad is a major player in the Stuttgart's gaming scene, and Udo believes that the high level of play in their crowd is dependent on Conrad's tireless fostering of gamers such as Udo. Early in their friendship, Conrad and Udo competed in a tournament; Conrad had been eliminated by Mathias Müller but shared what he had learned in the match with Udo, who then defeated Müller. Udo went on to his victory in Cologne, where he met Heimito Gerhardt―Germany's oldest wargamer. For his courage at the table in the face of youthful mockery, Conrad esteems Heimito as a "uniquely German phenomenon." Udo notes that an important consequence of Cologne was his introduction by Heimito to play-by-mail and the suggestion that he challenge the great American gamer Rex Douglas to a game.
Udo complains that the evening, spent with Hanna and Charly, had been pointless. Despite Ingeborg's plea that he remain with her all night to allay her vague fears, Udo rises after she has fallen asleep and returns to his diary. He is thinking of Frau Else scolding her staff, and he has accomplished very little work.
Udo records a "relatively uneventful day." Ingeborg goes to the beach, and Udo resolves to work, but instead...
(The entire section is 691 words.)
Chapters 5-6 Summary
Udo has had an exciting day. He records that Ingeborg had returned from her boat ride in a good mood and that his gifts hadn't been required to patch up their relationship. Rather than risk "disturbing our newfound peace," Udo resists his own inclination to keep Ingeborg to himself, and the evening begins at the Andalusia Lodge, a local―not a tourist―bar. With Charly and Hanna, they watch a soccer match between Spain and Germany on the bar TV. Udo suggests that they might be more comfortable watching at the hotel with their fellow German tourists, but the other three insist it would be more fun to cheer for the German team in the midst of "enemies." The team, however, turns out to be East German, making the match irrelevant.
Two locals known as the Wolf and the Lamb sit down at their table and present themselves as tour guides. Udo is skeptical, but they all go clubbing outside the tourist areas, where the atmosphere is murky and the prices cheap. By the end of the night, Charly is again extremely drunk and tearfully confesses to Udo his fear of dying. They return to the almost empty Andalusia Lodge for coffee, where the Wolf and the Lamb introduce them to El Quemado, the Burned One. Charly swims out to sea with the Wolf and the Lamb, who soon return though Charly continues swimming. Udo realizes that the pedal boat formation is El Quemada's home―his "fortress." Charly swims confidently back to shore.
By morning Charly has forgotten almost the entire night. Udo notes, though, that Charly retains a surprising amount of personal information about the Wolf and the Lamb. The day is spent on the beach, watching El Quemado. In the evening, Udo meets Frau Else in the hotel bar. She tells him that her husband is sick and also that she had recently been in Germany―"The same as always."
Udo finds that Charly and Hanna are becoming a burden. Not only did they show up for another evening of clubbing, the Wolf and the Lamb had shown up too. This time, the evening was punctuated by a bar fight that sent them retreating to the Andalusia Lodge. Udo was ready to go back to the hotel when El Quemado came in. Udo speaks briefly with El Quemado, then contemplates the living conditions of the pedal boat guy, the logistics of hygiene, the pros and cons of living rent free, his daily fare of sandwiches, the identity of his employer, and how he spends...
(The entire section is 545 words.)
Chapters 7-8 Summary
Udo is sunburnt. He spent most of the day at the beach talking to El Quemado, because "there was nothing else to do." Udo admits to El Quemado that he wants to be a writer. They then discuss poetry, which Udo says is pointless unless for a "love object." El Quemado adds it is "grotesque." Udo wonders to himself how someone so grotesque could use the word. He clarifies that he wants to be a creative essayist, and launches into a description of the world of wargaming. El Quemado listens while Ingeborg finishes her Florian Linden novel. Udo wonders if any woman would kiss El Quemado; El Quemado meanwhile expresses a wistful interest in Udo's wargaming universe. Udo confesses that he has a game set up in his room and that he hasn't been able to work on it or make any progress on his article. Udo finds El Quemado sympathetic, and he is surprised by his own unlikely choice of confidant. Too much sun has made Udo sick. After a swim, he listens to advice from El Quemado, who recommends "in a strange voice" coconut oil and a dark room.
In a fever, Udo wanders out to find a pharmacy and, after a dreamlike odyssey, returns with salve. In bed, he dreams that he and Ingeborg are each reading a book when there is a scratching at the door. Florian Linden's voice from the hallway tells them to get out as they are in danger. Ingeborg goes out to find Florian, while Udo thinks "How can anyone be in danger in this room?" From the balcony, Udo does not see Florian and Ingeborg but rather El Quemado. He wakes in terror.
Ingeborg says that Hanna misses her son and is thinking of leaving Charly because he drinks too much. In addition, Charly and Hanna have been asked to leave their hotel after Charly, along with the Wolf and the Lamb, beat up the night watchman. Charly wants to move to the Wolf's house, but Hanna objects that the two Spaniards won't keep their hands off her.
Udo has a productive morning, "obliterating" previously published variants by other wargamers. He rewards himself with a trip to the hotel bar where he encounters Frau Else. She asks about the novel he is carrying, which he tells her is the diary of a young girl who eventually kills herself. She is more curious about the photocopies of English language gaming articles that he has brought along to study. For a moment they have nothing to say, then Udo tells her she is beautiful. Udo...
(The entire section is 709 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
It is raining. Tourists in the Del Mar are staying indoors, getting bored, and organizing shopping trips. Charly, Hanna, and Ingeborg decide to go to Barcelona. Udo stays behind, but instead of working he goes to the Andalusia Lodge for coffee and cognac with the Lamb. The Lamb tells Udo a story about the Wolf and Charly that Udo doesn't understand, then declares that both men have hearts of gold but when drunk would drive anybody crazy. They observe three kids watching television, one of them weeping―drawn only to the music and the fight scenes. Udo is seized with a powerful impulse to find El Quemado and wonders about his home under the pedal boats. The Lamb calls El Quemado "weird," but not because of his burns. El Quemado has "hang-ups," he says, then says that Charly only cares about alcohol and windsurfing. They talk about Hanna and her son, and it occurs to Udo that the Lamb knows Charly and Hanna better than he does.
Udo drives around the old part of the city in the rain and leaves town to drive aimlessly. He stops at a roadside pottery shop and buys several random pots from the elderly proprietor, then drives up to a former chapel (now a restaurant) on a hill. The place seems to be popular with local couples because of the view of the bay. Udo tries to use one of the tourist telescopes, but it doesn't work. He makes a list of the things he does see: a cliff-side tree, a puking child, a dark-eyed girl, a bronze bust, a cheerful young group of clammers, a cloud the "color of dirty blood."
Returning to the hotel, Udo finds a letter from Conrad, which he saves for later. He goes down to the pedal boats to find El Quemado. Feeling foolish as he approaches, he takes hold of a loose rope and tries to tie down a flapping corner of tarp. His knot comes undone when he hears El Quemado's voice from within the pedal boat fortress. Udo asks to come inside and with some difficulty finds the entrance. The space inside is small but orderly, and El Quemado is eating a simple lunch. He shares his wine with Udo but seems to be merely tolerating Udo's presence. Udo tells El Quemado that he helps Ingeborg solve Florian Linden mysteries and continues to chatter while El Quemado grunts, sighs, shrugs, and digs his toes in the sand. Udo asks why El Quemado lives on the beach and learns that El Quemado owns the pedal boats―and makes a fair living at it―but lives on the beach because...
(The entire section is 937 words.)
Chapters 10-11 Summary
Udo has not slept. He idly contemplates the seagulls and the waiters, while Ingeborg sleeps with her Florian Linden novel. Udo sets the book on the night table, but he notes a random passage that catches his eye: "You say you've committed the same crime several times. . . .That is the very nature of evil."
Bored, Udo goes to a bar for breakfast. The Wolf and Charly follow him there. Charly had gone to stay at the Wolf's, though the Wolf, not able to speak German, doesn't seem to know what is going on. Charly lectures Udo about friendship, remarking that the Wolf is a true friend because he might lose his job looking after Charly instead of going to work. Charly is especially impressed by the Wolf's kind mother. He tells Udo that they had spent the early morning drinking with El Quemado and watching the light in Udo's window. He asks Udo teasingly whether he had been playing wargames or having sex with Ingeborg? Udo is angered that Charly knows about his wargaming and feels betrayed, believing that Ingeborg must have told him. He imagines them making fun of him.
When Udo presses Charly about Hanna, he answers that he hopes Hanna will be at the beach when he gets back so that he can sleep. Then he tells Udo how he and the Wolf had stumbled across a German couple―the woman reminding him of Ingeborg―having sex on the beach and how the Wolf had suggested getting in line. Charly finds this story deeply amusing, calling rape "funny." Then he tells Udo it had been a "gorgeous night . . . a quiet night . . . full of dangerous ideas but no bad behavior." When Udo insists that Hanna is not all right, Charly replies that no one is all right―only the Wolf's mother and Hanna's son in Oberhausen are "more or less all right." Udo is offended when Charly refers to Ingeborg as Inge, but then realizes that her friends―none of whom he actually knows―call her that. Udo says that in Ingeborg's place he would have beaten Charly up for hitting Hanna, but Charly is hurt and insists that he only talks about doing bad things―for example, throwing a rock through Udo's window as he had thought about doing when he saw El Quemado already staring up at the light from Udo's balcony. "I planned to warn you," he tells Udo.
Udo takes Charly back to his hotel, then returns to his own where he finds Frau Else in an area reserved for staff. Frau Else has been busy tending to her husband....
(The entire section is 709 words.)
Chapters 12-14 Summary
In the morning, Udo, Ingeborg, and Hanna report to Navy Headquarters, where they find that Charly's surf board has been recovered, though Charly himself hasn't been. Ingeborg again stays with Hanna, and Udo returns to his room and falls asleep. He dreams that someone is knocking at his door, and following the person down a long hallway, he discovers a mysterious figure―Frau Else's husband―writhing in bed. Ingeborg wakes him. She admits that after repeatedly trying to phone him, when he didn't answer, she thought he had left her. She says that the hotel scares her and that she doesn't understand what he sees in wargames, that "everyone in the world has handled Hanna" and that she doesn't understand that either. "And here you were in this room with your war," she berates him. Udo wonders who "everyone" is and begins to tremble; he does not understand how any of it is his fault.
Udo is not strongly affected by Charly's probable death. In the evening, he visits Hanna―who smiles "sympathetically"―and Ingeborg, who remains chilly toward him. Hanna talks sketchily about Charly's relatives in Oberhausen and eulogizes him, though she insists that she believes he is alive and playing a practical joke. She believes he no longer loves her and has left her this way out of madness. Later, Ingeborg tells Udo that Hanna barely knew Charly. Hanna and Charly were scheduled to leave the next day, and Udo expects Hanna will go. Udo and Ingeborg are also leaving in a couple of days.
Hanna has taken Charly's car and gone back to Germany. The manager of Hanna's hotel, Mr. Pere, repeatedly contacts Udo, suggesting that Hanna has "fled." Udo does not understand why he is being pestered about it, but he acquiesces when the manager asks him to represent "the affected party" in the search for Charly's body.
The Wolf and the Lamb are at first "stricken" by the news of Charly's disappearance, but Udo realizes that he and Ingeborg are their planned replacements for Hanna and Charly. He asks Ingeborg what she had meant about "everyone" handling Hanna, and Ingeborg assures him that she didn't mean the two clubbing Spaniards. She considers them harmless and fun loving, but not rapists. They are approached by the Wolf and the Lamb at their dinner table but refuse to go out with them. Udo feels sorry for them as they walk away.
In their room, Udo...
(The entire section is 695 words.)
Chapters 15-17 Summary
Udo has taken Ingeborg to the station and she has left. When Udo told Frau Else about their change of plans, she was surprised that Ingeborg was leaving but more surprised that Udo was staying. After returning to the hotel, Udo cannot find Frau Else. The laundry room is locked. The maid appears and tidies up his room, and Udo again tips her generously. He spends the rest of the day telling El Quemado about his games.
El Quemado comes to visit Udo in his room. Udo tells him about Ingeborg's leaving, then compares gaming to playing music and then to rotting food. He gives El Quemado a sandwich, but El Quemado's ruminant-like chewing revolts him. Udo paces, explaining rules and strategies, finally demonstrating how a strategy of his own invention could reverse a lost battle. Udo goes to the balcony and sees the Wolf and the Lamb watching his room. They beckon him to come for a drink. He agrees half-heartedly to meet them later, then returns to El Quemado, who is absorbed in studying the game counters. Udo is skeptical of El Quemado's ability to understand the complexities of the Eastern Front. El Quemado says the Wolf and the Lamb follow a monotonous life, and Udo calls them parasites. El Quemado's reaction makes Udo think that they are all friends, but he feels that the Spaniards had somehow ruined his happiness with Ingeborg. Udo invites El Quemado to play.
Udo, playing the German army, explains his moves as he advances over the rest of Europe. El Quemado is a quick study, but he can't offer sufficient defenses and before the decisive turn, the game is set aside. They join the Wolf and the Lamb at the Andalusia Lodge. Udo tells El Quemado that he will remain in Costa Brava until Charly's body is found.
Mr. Pere tells Udo that the search is just a formality now, and he might as well go home. Mr. Pere remarks that it is a "bitter paradox to die on vacation." Udo observes the people going blithely about their vacations and silently calls them "morons controlling the universe with their indifference." Then he thinks of El Quemado and suddenly recognizes him as the enemy.
Udo spends another unproductive day eating, dawdling, walking about the town. It is the end of the season, and the overheated, largely shuttered town seems to him to have been "consigned to dust and oblivion." Udo...
(The entire section is 637 words.)
Chapters 18-19 Summary
The owner of the Andalusia Lodge does not seem to like the Wolf and the Lamb, and he tells Udo a story―one that he finds amusing but Udo finds incomprehensible―about a rape that the two Spaniards were apparently mixed up in. When Udo asks them about it, they laugh and deny it. Udo feels that he is the butt of some joke and leaves without paying for their drinks.
The game has now progressed to the summer of 1940, and El Quemado is beginning to hold his own, moving troops and outguessing Udo's planned attacks. Udo writes in his diary as El Quemado takes his turn, observing that the game relaxes El Quemado.
As Udo escorts El Quemado out, a maid walks on them suddenly, screams, and runs away. Udo is at first embarassed but then wonders if it were something about El Quemado other than his face that had frightened her. Downstairs, he is unable to distract Frau Else from a business meeting, so he takes a drive, eventually ending up at El Quemado's fortress. He overhears voices and approaches secretly. A man he at first thinks is Charly gives El Quemado advice on beating Udo at Third Reich. Udo realizes that El Quemado has foreseen his attack on Russia. The conversation then switches to a lighthearted discussion of rape, and Udo realizes it isn't Charly. Udo returns to the hotel, and Frau Else remarks that he looks haggard and should return to Germany. She refuses his invitation to come to his room. In bed, he opens the Florian Linden novel to a random passage that reads, "The killer is the owner of the hotel."
Udo dreams that Mr. Pere is taking him to identify a body which turns out not to be Charly's corpse. The details are not dreamlike except for jumps in time between breakfast and various other ordinary incidents. Udo is finally awakened by a phone call from Conrad. The conversation is halting, with Conrad berating Udo for neglecting his job at the electric company. Udo asks if Conrad has seen Ingeborg. Conrad does not think Udo needs to stay for Charly's sake and wonders if he is still going to the Paris Convention. Udo senses mockery but asks Conrad to visit Ingeborg and then call him again. Udo tells Conrad about El Quemado. "What if he's the devil?" Conrad asks, but Udo says El Quemado is more like an ox. Conrad is concerned that Udo does not even know El Quemado's nationality. Udo goes for a walk and...
(The entire section is 664 words.)
Chapters 20-21 Summary
The game has progressed to the winter of 1940. Udo explains the necessary preparations for success from both the Russian and the German perspectives. Udo notes that El Quemado doesn't know all this yet because he hasn't explained it to him. El Quemado flounders on the Russian front and in the Mediterranean, while Udo's plans "simmer at the General Staff Command." Udo has already projected his own victory―"annihilation"―and classifies El Quemado as a "mule"―the kind of loser that plays to the end no matter what. Udo then wonders what secret weapon El Quemado may hold.
Frau Else interrogates Udo about his whereabouts that day. He claims to have been in his room, or out for a drive. She is worried that something bad may happen to him. She finds it incredible that El Quemado spends hours in his room every night playing a game. She has seen the game in his room, and she does not like it. She does not want El Quemado ruining the reputation of her hotel and tells Udo that if her husband were to find out, Udo might be kicked out. She admits that she has told her husband about herself and Udo―but not about El Quemado's visits, and Udo says he believes he has seen her husband―but not in the hotel. Frau Else remarks that Third Reich is a horrible name for a game and that she assumes he plays the German side.
The game has progressed to the spring of 1941. Udo realizes he does not know El Quemado's name, let alone his nationality. He is certain, however, that among El Quemado's acquaintances is Frau Else's husband. Udo believes it was Frau Else's husband he had witnessed on the beach giving El Quemado advice on strategy. Udo now sees that the husband is receiving information about him both from Frau Else and from El Quemado and is strategizing to prevent his sleeping with Frau Else and winning Third Reich. Udo's armies are making gains, inflicting heavy losses on El Quemado's Russians. He wants to know if Frau Else's husband visits El Quemado every night, and where he gets his wargame knowledge, and what disease does he have―AIDS? On the Western front, Udo risks the German fleet to establish a beachhead across the English channel and notes that El Quemado plays as if "overcome by the sadness of real war." From the balcony, Udo watches the Wolf and the Lamb in conversation with Frau Else.
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Chapters 22-24 Summary
A body has been found, and Udo and Mr. Pere go the police station to identify it as Charly. Afterward, Udo seeks out Frau Else on the staff-only rooftop patio of the hotel. She scolds him, and when he presses for more intimacy, she tells him that while she hasn't ruled it out, she believes he must be "quite unbalanced." She denies that she sees him as a child, especially as she doesn't even remember him as a child. She insists that the Wolf and the Lamb had asked about him and that she had merely been sending them away the previous night. Frau Else asks him what it means to be a German; Udo says he doesn't know―something "we've gradually forgotten."
The tourists are now gone from the Andalusia Lodge and the owner offers Udo condolences on Charly's confirmed death. Udo notices that everyone in the bar is pretending to watch a film on the VCR but are actually listening to him. The owner claims that the Wolf and the Lamb are looking for jobs, though the Wolf was the worst waiter the Lodge had ever had. He adds that El Quemado will be bored when Udo leaves, because of the game. Udo is annoyed and surprised that El Quemado has spread around word of their game. The kids in front of the television seem to be waiting "menacingly" for something to happen. The owner calls El Quemado a "smart kid" and says that it's a good thing that Udo will be leaving before the game ends, adding "If I were you I wouldn't get him upset." According to the owner, El Quemado doesn't like Germans―that his burns were inflicted by the "German side." Udo believes the owner must be referring to the game and that El Quemado must be crazy. The owner insists that long ago El Quemado had been a soldier and that Nazis "on the loose around the world" had burned him. Udo mockingly asks whether El Quemado were Russian or Jewish. The owner recalls that El Quemado had once worked in the Lodge's kitchen and that he was extremely strong, that no one crosses him, and that the owner would hate to see El Quemado "get in trouble." Udo wonders what kind of trouble, but the owner answers enigmatically that the "real problem is when a person can't keep a promise." When Udo asks if it has to do with Charly and Hanna, the owner laughs hilariously and says he doesn't know. Udo presses to know more about El Quemado, whom he is beginning to feel uneasy about, and one of the kids replies that he is a ghost "from here."
The game has...
(The entire section is 897 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
It is raining. Frau Else has gone out with her husband. Udo visits Mr. Pere and asks him about the rape that happened "just before my friend drowned." Mr. Pere denies that there had been any rape.
The game has progressed to the winter of 1941, but Udo wants to see Frau Else before El Quemado comes. He hesitates to go down to meet El Quemado but worries that he has already been seen on the balcony. Udo wonders where Frau Else is and what she is doing with her husband. El Quemado tries but fails to drive Udo out of England. Udo's mind is more on Frau Else than on the game, but El Quemado circles the board and makes notes. Udo thinks of his fellow fanzine columnists and wonders how many of them have "looked into the abyss," noting that only Rex Douglas understands. Udo shows El Quemado the photocopies he had brought on vacation to study and tells him that they are plans to beat him. The game has nearly stalled, but El Quemado makes his moves anyway.
El Quemado is early, and he does not wait for Udo to meet him at the hotel door but comes straight up to Udo's room. Udo notes that he looks like a suitor carrying photocopies instead of flowers. It is soon apparent to Udo that El Quemado has taken the offensive and is breaking through Udo's troops in the East. Udo's countermove plays into El Quemado's carefully devised strategy, and whatever move Udo is compelled to make El Quemado has already calculated in advance. In the West, the United States enters the war, but El Quemado isn't able to make much use of it yet. Udo projects that he will take London in the summer and expects to defeat the British and the Americans. Udo is surprised by the content of El Quemado's photocopies and laughs to hide his sense of "vulnerability." El Quemado has copied pages from a book he found in the Catalonia Pension Fund Library. Udo senses that El Quemado expects his fear to show, but he remains steady. Escorting El Quemado out, Udo takes him on a detour to visit the night watchman from whom he sharply demands four pushpins. The watchman, Udo notes, is the "cowardly type," who requires a "firm hand," and he believes El Quemado "does not like" his demonstration of the use of force. Udo returns to his room and tacks the photocopies on the wall above his bed.
(The entire section is 419 words.)
Chapter 26 Summary
Udo wakes late. Frau Else is still in Barcelona with her husband. Udo goes to the beach but El Quemado is not there, and he falls asleep on the sand. He dreams that he and Ingeborg are in the hotel room and someone is knocking. Ingeborg does not want Udo to answer, and he pushes her to the ground. Seeing her on the floor, Udo thinks about how easy it would be for "anyone" to rape her. The knocking turns into scratching and from the hallway, Florian Linden warns Udo not to open the door. The room begins to freeze, and three times Florian Linden approaches the door before telling Udo that there is "shady business" going on and that Udo should go home. In terror, Udo believes Florian Linden is being vaporized, and he finds that he cannot move. Waking, Udo realizes that El Quemado hasn't been on the beach all day.
Udo calls Conrad and asks for money to allow him to stay in Spain a few more days. Conrad doesn't see the point and urges Udo to come home, but agrees finally to lend him the money. Ingeborg and Conrad have been seeing each other often, even visiting Udo's apartment to retrieve some of Ingeborg's things. Conrad assures Udo that Ingeborg still loves him, then reminds Udo of a game of Third Reich they had played against Mathias Müller, who was such a poor loser that he broke a chair trying to hit someone with it. Udo thinks Conrad is testing his memory and defensively insists that Conrad quiz him about the moves from that game, impatiently supplying the questions himself. They talk about Heimito, whom Udo worries about, telling Conrad that "he's old and everything changes; . . . people abandon you." Conrad suggests that they can go with Heimito to the Paris Convention, where World in Flames is going to be played with Germans playing as Germany, Brits playing as Great Britain, and Frenchmen playing as France―and probably filling in for the Soviet Union too. Udo is annoyed that Third Reich has been relegated to a mere presence at the convention and worried that the French will monopolize Rex Douglas.
The game has progressed to the summer of 1942, and El Quemado interrupts Udo's reading of the Florian Linden novel. Downstairs, the night watchman tells Udo that Frau Else is not around and asks about the game. An old, sick German man watches as Udo, irritated at the watchman's referring to the game, tries to provoke a fight. The old man rises from his...
(The entire section is 466 words.)
Chapters 27-29 Summary
Anzio. Fortress Europa. Omaha Beachhead. Summer 1942
Udo goes for an evening walk on the beach, meditating on past wargames. He mulls over the "names of the forgotten"―names of generals, battlefields, military divisions, the "countless combat groups sacrificed," not people of flesh and blood but pawns represented by counters in his beloved games. He reminisces about a zealous player who once organized a live role playing festival called Berlin Bunker, which ended in disgrace with players being lost in the suburbs.
El Quemado's photocopies, tacked to the wall, begin to remind Udo of "little doors to the void." El Quemado records detailed notes about the progress of the game. Udo considers that El Quemado enjoys the roles of dictator and creator and has found a way to express himself, but he finds the photocopies an ominous warning. Udo asks El Quemado if he thinks he will win. El Quemado asks Udo which counters he is most fond of and which divisions he finds the "most beautiful."
With the Wolf and the Lamb
Frau Else's absence is affecting the standards of the Del Mar. The staff is surly toward Udo, and he is having trouble getting service. He thinks that it would be an opportune time to skip without paying the hotel bill, but only if he could see the surprise on Frau Else's face. While waiting for clean sheets to be brought, the Wolf and the Lamb walk in unhindered by the ordinarily discriminating staff. The Wolf is curious about the game, but the Lamb uncharacteristically challenges the Wolf's ability to play based on his inability to read English. The Wolf glances through the photocopies and reads the title of one: "Statement of the Meeting of the Ministers of Council, November 12, 1938" (in which Hitler's closest advisors discussed the aftermath of Kristallnacht and further measures to be taken against the Jews). Udo says that the game creates a "documentary urge . . . as if we want to know exactly how everything was done in order to change what was done wrong." The Wolf reveals to Udo that El Quemado had somehow obtained the rule book and had photocopied it to study; Udo concludes that Frau Else's husband had taken the book from his room and returned it again while Udo was out.
Clarita the maid arrives with the clean sheets. She seems afraid of Udo but relaxes when she discovers the Wolf and the Lamb in his room. While making up the bed,...
(The entire section is 668 words.)
Chapters 30-31 Summary
Autumn 1942. Winter 1942
The game has apparently turned in El Quemado's favor. Udo notes his opponent's fervid attention to the board, his nervousness, his avoidance of the balcony window, and he likens El Quemado to a prisoner. A greenish glossiness on El Quemado's burn scars seems to Udo to be the regeneration of skin. El Quemado seems bothered, but "with his kind" Udo finds it hard to tell for sure. El Quemado tells Udo that he had thought Udo had left for home, but he had come anyway because of their "agreement." That is, he would come every night until the game was over. Udo replies that eventually the hotel may stop letting El Quemado in and that Udo will certainly leave before 1945. Udo insists that there is no obligation, that it is only a game. El Quemado produces more photocopies, which Udo interprets as a political stratagem. Unsure of the hidden meaning of the gift, Udo defiantly tacks them on the wall with the others.
The next day, Udo's control of Europe further disintegrates, and El Quemado evades Udo's attempts to find out who provided him with the rules to Third Reich. Udo doubts his own tactics of interrogation and declares that he is probably hindered by not wanting to hurt El Quamado's feelings: "He may be my enemy but he's a good enemy." He imagines taking El Quemado to the Paris Convention, realizing that "his charred face lends dignity to the act of gaming." El Quemado says he would like to go, that he would like to play other people, but that he can't. He tells Udo that he goes to the library for research about the war, where before he starting playing he used to borrow books of Spanish poetry. Udo replies that if he had known, he wouldn't have starting playing with El Quemado. Udo also likes poetry―Goethe, in particular.
Udo encounters the friendly Red Cross worker from Charly's investigation, who takes Udo to his apartment and proceeds to engage in a more or less one-way conversation as Udo mentally recalls the events of his day. Conrad had called to warn him that he is about to lose his electric company job. Then Clarita had come to tidy up and had stayed for sex. Falling asleep afterward, Udo had dreamed that Ingeborg was waiting for him in the hotel room. The Del Mar, however, did not appear as Udo walked along, but El Quemado came to meet him with Third Reich in its box under his arm. El Quemado sets up...
(The entire section is 597 words.)
Chapters 32-33 Summary
Frau Else has returned. She is disgusted by the condition of Udo's room and by the photocopies on the wall over Udo's bed. Udo explains that they are like a backdrop to the game for El Quemado. She asks if it doesn't make his "stomach turn," then clarifies that she isn't talking about history but about Udo's recent lifestyle and about his ruining her hotel. She takes the photocopies down, once again repulses Udo's lovemaking, scolds him for his bad habits, and leaves with the photocopies in her pocket. But she has agreed to meet Udo later that night.
At dinner, Frau Else admits that her husband is dying of cancer. Udo believes that this explains many things, in particular Frau Else's flirtation/rejection cycle and the identity of El Quemado's mysterious adviser. Udo tells Frau Else that El Quemado and her husband are conspiring to "crush" him, but that he won't leave her while she needs him. Frau Else advises Udo to go home―"You need to take care of yourself, not me."
El Quemado is waiting for him when they return to the hotel. Frau Else chats politely with El Quemado, then goes into the hotel. Udo declines to play and detects a note of resentment in El Quemado's reply. He sizes El Quemado up and wonders where they might fight without the advantage going to his enemy.
Surveying his life, Udo admits that he is losing on every front. He climbs into bed with the Florian Linden novel but later wakes. The hotel is full of odors and sounds that he has never noticed before. Someone is coughing and he hears footsteps, but as in his dream, the hallway is empty.
Udo is awakened by Clarita, who agrees to quick sex, then tidies the room. She asks him if he is a Nazi. He replies that he is an anti-Nazi. He tips her, then asks her where Frau Else's room is.
After lunch, Udo calls Conrad and asks for more money. Conrad agrees to send money, but he says little. Udo meets Frau Else, who refuses his embrace and points out that his lips are bleeding. He promises to clean his room, and she invites him to dinner.
The game has progressed to the summer of 1943. El Quemado has landed in France, but Udo declares "it will still cost him something." All over the world, Udo is losing ground. He dozes off.
(The entire section is 407 words.)
Chapter 34 Summary
After a sleepless night, Udo finds the night watchman asleep and takes the opportunity to visit Frau Else's room. Though it is morning, the room is dark, and the voice of Frau Else's husband invites Udo to come in. Frau Else is not there, but her husband greets Udo politely and turns on the light. Udo notes that the old man has aged "rapidly and poorly" in the ten years since Udo and his family used to summer at the hotel. When Udo asks where Frau Else has gone, her husband replies that that is "nobody's business but her own," causing Udo to wonder if Frau Else has yet another lover.
Frau Else's husband begins to point out to Udo his strategic mistakes―getting bogged down in the Soviet Union and underestimating resistance in England. He admits that he has been in Udo's room to study the game board (countering Udo's objections by suggesting that snooping was no worse than trying to seduce another man's wife), but he insists that El Quemado needed very little advice, waving the photocopies as evidence. He warns Udo that El Quemado is a "viper," which Udo interprets as referring to his Soviet offensives. Frau Else's husband clarifies his "viper" remark to mean that El Quemado has real life plans in store for Udo when he has defeated him at Third Reich. Udo insists that it is only a game, but Frau Else's husband says that El Quemado sees it differently, that Frau Else is worried, and that there is nothing at this point that can be done. He urges Udo to pay his bill and go home before Berlin falls. Udo asks what will happen then. Frau Else's husband answers, "The logical thing. . . . It's all in the history books."
Udo objects that there are no Nuremberg Trials at the end of Third Reich. Frau Else's husband proposes that for El Quemado, the trial is the most important part of the game and that he will take Udo to the beach and try him "like a man with balls." Udo asks if El Quemado will rape him, to which Frau Else's husband replies that he is "in the wrong movie." Instead, he will send Udo to "Valhalla with your friend, the windsurfer." It doesn't matter that neither Charly nor Udo are Nazis―"at this point in the war" El Quemado isn't making distinctions. Frau Else's husband compares El Quemado to the Inca Atahualpa, who learned chess from watching his Spanish captors play. Udo asks if El Quemado is South American. Frau Else's husband, as in a game of...
(The entire section is 518 words.)
Chapters 35-36 Summary
Frau Else scolds Udo, who is suffering from sleep deprivation, secret drinking, and mood swings. She threatens to call his parents, then to call a doctor, but Udo insists that he is fine. She berates him for mistreating the staff, who hate him and wish he would drown; he accuses her of being a tease, tempting him and then turning him away. As he argues with her, half asleep, memories of last night's play bleeds through, El Quemado forces relentlessly advancing across eastern Europe just as happened in the real war.
Later, Udo goes to bed and dreams that he is Florian Linden investigating Charly's death in the hall of some ancient temple. Atahualpa is playing chess against himself, cheating. He tosses the chess pieces into a fireplace, then starts another game. Udo challenges him to play, but Atahualpa ignores his request, stating that Charly was killed by the sea and by his "own kindness and stupidity." Udo wants to know the way out, and Atahualpa tells him that they are under the pedal boats and that, considering the bad weather, he might be there a while. Udo attacks Atahualpa and wakes with a burning groin.
That night, Udo plays badly. He knows he will lose Italy next and that the game will be over by summer of 1944.
Udo does not know when he got up for breakfast, but it was then that he saw Frau Else and her husband having a pleasant lunch with a third man. Udo escapes to his room and goes back to sleep. On waking he feels sick, and he tries to phone Conrad, who doesn't answer. The Red Cross worker tries to visit Udo, but Udo tells the hotel desk to send him away. Instead of leaving, the Red Cross worker stands in the street and screams obscenities, which hurts Udo's feelings. Udo thinks about Ingeborg and wonders if she and Conrad might get together if Conrad were less shy. He finds a postcard and writes out some lines of poetry by Goethe. Lonely, he begins phoning everyone he can think of in Stuttgart, but no one answers. Dialing random numbers in his address book, he reaches his old nemesis, Mathias Müller, who tells him that Conrad is in love.
Udo calls reception and asks for Clarita. Fearing that Frau Else has answered the desk phone in a disguised voice, Udo is tearfully relieved to discover that it is only the receptionist.
The game has progressed to the spring of 1944. Udo has lost almost...
(The entire section is 424 words.)
Chapters 37-38 Summary
Udo is awakened by an ambulance idling in front of the hotel. It is dark, and it has been raining. Frau Else's husband is brought out on a stretcher; he is escorted by Frau Else, their lunch guest, the night watchman, and various staff. As the stretcher passes under Udo's balcony, Udo's eyes meet those of Frau Else's husband.
The game has progressed to the summer of 1944. In his journal, Udo faithfully records his losses, while the rain pours down on the balcony. Udo notes that the sea is rising. El Quemado is soaking wet, and Udo ponders knocking him on the head while he towels his hair. Instead, he gives El Quemado a dry shirt of his own.
Udo sleeps late and notes that it is good that he isn't hungry because he is nearly broke. It is still raining. Frau Else is at the hospital with her husband. The Del Mar seems empty of tourists. Udo realizes that his watch has stopped working but he doesn't know how long ago. From the balcony, Udo sees the Wolf and the Lamb puddle jumping "like puppies." He eats lunch and packs his bags, leaving behind his unopened summer reading (though not the Florian Linden novel). He calls Conrad, who at first is cool toward him but warms up as Udo reminisces and then tells him to take care of Ingeborg. Hanging up the phone, Udo waits for El Quemado.
In the first move, El Quemado finishes off Udo's remaining defenses, and in the second move Udo surrenders. El Quemado beckons Udo onto the rain drenched balcony and points to the pedal boat fortress, within which Udo sees a light flickering―a light he imagines to be Charly's ghost. Udo follows El Quemado to the pedal boats, asking as they go "who's there?" Udo tries to push the fortress over, but the pedal boats are too heavy. As El Quemado watches the storm, Udo tries to scale the fortress but falls. He is picked up by El Quemado and hoisted "like a rag doll" through the entrance. As he flails, Udo envisions himself as Goethe's "sullen guest on the gloomy earth" while El Quemado wanders a path of "cartoons and nightmares . . . like the eternal mourner." Udo finds himself alone among El Quemado's possessions, a kerosene lamp burning beside him, listening to El Quemado's delighted laughter outside. Udo finally scrambles out and says good-bye to El Quemado, who now sits very still in the sand, meditatively gazing east.
(The entire section is 418 words.)
Chapters 39-46 Summary
September 25. Bar Casanova. La Jonquera
At dawn, Udo drives away from the Del Mar and stops briefly to leave Third Reich in its box perched on El Quemado's pedal boat fortress. The rain has stopped, but the town is so quiet that Udo thinks it must be a local holiday. Udo notes that the highway is full of German and French license plates heading home.
Five days have passed since Udo's last entry. He is home, but he did not contact anyone for three days. Finally, yesterday, he reluctantly dropped by his club, still shy of seeing his old friends. Udo is greeted warmly by his admirers, but it is Conrad's reserved welcome that makes him feel at home. Conrad leaves his game and goes for a walk with Udo, which ends at Udo's place. They talk about everything "except what really mattered," and Udo drives Conrad home in silence. Still, Udo feels that their friendship is genuine. Conrad offers to lend Udo more money.
Udo and Ingeborg remain friends, though they accidentally end up in bed―which Udo blames on the arrangement of the furniture and the American music they were listening to. Udo has told her about Clarita, though notably not about Frau Else. Ingeborg confides that Conrad had tried to kiss her. She had slapped him, and though Udo laughs, he feels bad for Conrad.
Udo has spoken to Hanna on the phone. Charly's body had been returned to Oberhausen in a garbage bag. Hanna however says she is happy and her son is fine. She tells him that Ingeborg believes his tale, but Hanna wants to know the real story. Udo says that nothing happened to him, then asks what really happened to her. She answers "To me? . . . The same as always."
Udo has a new job as a manufacturing clerk. He is taking a break from wargaming. Though he visits the club frequently, no one has noticed that he isn't playing. Conrad is writing the article that Udo had been supposed to present at the Paris Convention.
Udo tells Conrad that they are all just ghosts on game boards. He likens them to officers of German General Seeckt, who organized a covert general staff in violation of the Treaty of Versailles, "breaking the law, shadows playing with shadows." Udo thinks he will not go to Paris for the...
(The entire section is 540 words.)