(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Munich is alive and radiant with life and art, energy, and enthusiasm. Young and old, Germans and foreigners, all feel at home in the city. Indolence and leisure—the basis of all culture and civilization—are the characteristics of the lifestyle of the citizens of Munich, especially in the streets of the northern quarter. Handsome men and beautiful women saunter by; both the rich and the poor patronize art and literature.

This pleasant atmosphere is nowhere more evident than on the Odeonsplatz, in front of the large windows and glass showcases of the big art shop owned by Herr Bluthenzweig. There are antiques, modern art, art books, bronze nudes, original paintings, and especially reproductions of masterpieces on display. One large picture, a fine sepia photograph of a sensuous Madonna in a wide old-gold frame, displayed in the first window, is the center of attraction to the art lovers of Munich; the original of this picture was the sensation of the year’s great international exhibition, an event well advertised all over town by means of effective and artistic posters.

A young man with hollowed cheeks, wrapped in his own thoughts, covered in a black cloak, with the hood drawn over his head, walks hurriedly. Oblivious of the sun-drenched, fun-loving city, he arrives at a dark church, which is empty except for an old woman on crutches. After genuflecting, the frail young man looks straight at the crucifix on the high altar. He seems to be seeking answers, strength, and reassurance from his God.

After praying and meditating for a little while, the young man leaves the church to go to the Odeonsplatz. Studying the faces of the people staring at the pictures displayed in the showcases in the windows of Herr Bluthenzweig, he concentrates his gaze on the picture of the Madonna. He can hear two university students admiring the...

(The entire section is 762 words.)