The narrator, an aged city planner and former professor in a central Hungarian town. He has been awarded many degrees and diplomas and honored for his role in the technical progress of his city in the early days of socialism. Keenly aware of his own physical and moral degeneration, he at times seems obsessed with death and guilt as he lives alone with his memories in an apartment stuffed with an accumulation of useless objects. In the city all around him, he sees reminders in concrete of the errors of his life, errors that can be erased only by dynamite. As a city planner, he mapped out for society a future that has become an almost unbearable present in a state ruled by power-hungry bureaucrats, chosen for their cynicism and idle chatter and protected by the organizational system. Born into a wealthy bourgeois family, he became a member of another privileged class, the intelligentsia, after private property was abolished. Although, as an idealistic builder of the city following the devastation of war, he attempted to abolish social stratification, in reality he created a modified system of inequalities to replace the former political structure. Once he repeated mindless slogans and believed the hierarchical military to be the most efficient of all organizations. He perfunctorily eulogizes his superior, a former Gestapo spy with thirty-two years in the movement who has committed suicide. Reflecting on the dead director, the city builder admits his own lust for power. Later, he inspects an earthquake-torn city, where, he believes, his own son lies buried in the rubble. Finally, he joins a noisy crowd in the town...
(The entire section is 674 words.)