Chapter 4 Summary

Leonard awakens and hastily prepares himself for his evening out with Glass. When he heads downstairs to meet him, he is surprised to find another gentleman in Glass’s tiny car. The man introduces himself as Russell, and the three set off for a bar. During the car ride, Russell garrulously relates whatever sights they happen to pass. They finally arrive at the bar and begin ordering rounds of beers and champagne, the latter of which Leonard feels is of very poor quality. Russell and especially Glass dominate the conversation, with Leonard not wanting to voice opinions without knowing how they will be received. The other two spend the first few rounds grumbling about Germany and the poor quality of life. They wonder how long East Germany can last, assuming it will depend on the backing of the Soviets. They then turn to talking about the Russians and how they have always been untrustworthy. Noting the late war years, they remember that even when the Russians were supposed to be allies, they were cold, unfriendly, and suspicious. They lament that it took more than a year for them to realize the Russians were spying on them.

Depressed by the West German bar and reasonably intoxicated, the men pile back into Glass’s car and cross the border into East Germany. They arrive at a new bar with a somewhat livelier milieu. Onstage, a German chanteuse sings American standards with a thick accent, entertaining a lively crowd. At their table, the men drink more, and Russell offers Leonard a flower, which he promptly puts behind his ear. Glass philosophizes about the necessity of espionage and how it relates to language. He insists that cavemen had larger brains but no language because everything they needed was evident to all of them. Only when they became individuals and went off on their own did language become necessary; the language was necessary because of the secrets. Glass thinks the work that they do is part of what makes them individuals.

One of the unique features of the bar is a pneumatic system that allows patrons to send messages from one table to another in small canisters (not unlike a contemporary bank drive-through). When a message arrives at the table, the men are ecstatic. The message is for Leonard (it is addressed to the man with the flower in his ear), and it is a request for a dance. Russell and Glass blather at Leonard to prepare him for his romantic encounter and send him across the room. When he arrives at the table, he finds a beautiful woman named Maria.