The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The story concerns the successes and failures of Unorna, a twenty-five-year-old wealthy orphan. Ever since childhood, when she was observed taming a wolf, she has possessed hypnotic, clairvoyant, and spell-casting powers. She is aided by Keyork Arabian, a clever, dwarfish physician, philosopher, and occultist who would give anything to possess her, body and soul. Unorna’s aim is to thwart the Wanderer’s seven-year search for Beatrice Varanger, his beloved. Beatrice’s father, opposed to their union, had traveled evasively with her until his recent death.

Once Unorna casts her eyes on the Wanderer, she is smitten. Meanwhile, she is loved unrequitedly by Israel Kafka, a rich, handsome young Jew whose healthy blood Keyork uses to keep alive the somnolent body of a patient known as the Old Man. For seven years, Keyork has controlled this enormous wise man, who is 107 years old, hoping to learn from him the secret of eternal life. Keyork is guarded by the Individual, his huge deaf and mute Russian servant. Sister Paul, though knowing and fearing Unorna, stands ready to help Beatrice if needed.

On New Year’s Day, the Wanderer sees Beatrice, home at last, at Mass in Prague’s gloomy Teyn Kirche, but he loses her in the departing crowd. He follows her to a strange house but finds only Unorna. She instantly falls in love with the tall, devout, handsome man. Looking further for Beatrice, he encounters Keyork, his friend from former days, who...

(The entire section is 476 words.)