(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Part 1—1945. In 1945, at the end of World War II, asylum inmates are released in the city of Spitzen-on-the-Dein in Germany. The Allied victors left only a few overseers. One of these, Leevey, an American Jew, patrols one-third of the country on his motorcycle and is about to travel through the city. Zizendorf, the editor of the town’s newspaper, The Crooked Zeitung, is planning to kill Leevey, liberate Germany, and found a neo-Nazi state.

Zizendorf is the lover of Jutta, the wife of the previous editor, a Nazi soldier, who was lost in Siberia during the war. Jutta and her two children live in a room on the fifth floor of Madam Stella Snow’s boardinghouse. Madam Snow is Jutta’s older sister. Herr Stintz, the schoolteacher, lives on the fourth floor, the Census-Taker on the third. The roomer who lives on the second floor, the Duke, is out, following Jutta’s son through the rubble of the city. Madam Snow lives on the first floor, consulting her tarot cards every day. Balamir, a former inmate of the asylum, is put to work by Madam Snow, unearthing furniture in the basement.

Madam Snow’s son, who returns from the war physically disabled, lives with his wife in the moving-picture house, where, each day, he shows the same film to an empty theater. The Mayor, his memory obliterated, is too blind to tend the chronicles of history. He is haunted by dreams of Pastor Miller, an innocent man who was executed because of the Mayor’s betrayal. In the newspaper office, drinking with the Census-Taker, Zizendorf thinks about the Mayor’s situation while he waits to kill Leevey. He places a log across the road where Leevey will be passing through town. Jutta’s son flees for his life from the duke, who is following him, as Jutta’s daughter, Selvaggia, watches from her window.

Part 2—1914. Stella and Ernst are inspired by their parents with romantic dreams of conquest and heroism. Singing for the soldiers in the Sportswelt Brauhaus, Stella, “the sorceress, sent them boiling and held them up for joy.” Herman Snow, proprietor of the Sportswelt, urges Ernst, his son, to win Stella, to become the conquering hero. When Cromwell takes Stella home from the Sportswelt, Ernst runs after them down the “avenue of heroes.” He appears at the side of the carriage, tells Stella he will come back, and flees to the university, where he duels...

(The entire section is 989 words.)