(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As the story opens, Arthur Fidelman, artist manque, arrives at the Rome train depot for a stay of some weeks as part of his yearlong project to pursue research for a critical study of Giotto, only one chapter of which rests in his briefcase. Instead, he meets a refugee named Shimon Susskind, a beggar-peddler, who pursues Fidelman through a series of scenes. In the first scene, Fidelman, responding “Shalom” for the first time in his life, refuses to give Susskind a suit but grudgingly gives him a dollar. The next encounter takes place about a week later, after Fidelman has “organized” his life—working in libraries in the morning and studying in churches and museums in the afternoon. Returning to his hotel, he is surprised by a visit from Susskind, who again importunes him for the suit but settles for five dollars. The next day at lunch, Fidelman again glances up to see Susskind, who once more pleads for some investment money so that he can sell ladies’ stockings, chestnuts, anything. Rebuffing Susskind, Fidelman continues his research, returning to his hotel late that night to discover that his briefcase is missing. The pursued now becomes the pursuer.

However, before that event takes place, Fidelman dreams that he is pursuing Susskind through the Jewish catacombs under Rome, by the light of a seven-flamed candelabra. Elusive Susskind, who knows the ins and outs, escapes; the candles flicker; and in his dream Fidelman is left “sightless and...

(The entire section is 516 words.)