Helmut Halm (hahlm), a teacher at a reputable Gymnasium in Stuttgart, now on vacation at Lake Constance. Forty-six years old, with a middle-age paunch, he is an introverted intellectual bourgeois who cherishes his privacy, detests familiarity, and desires to remain incognito as much as possible. He reads Søren Kierkegaard and is fond of heavy red wines, good food, cigars, and, above all, escape and seclusion from the world in the company of his wife of many years, Sabina. He is troubled by his loss of sexual desire only to the extent that he is not entirely sure whether his wife has also reached that stage in her life. In the presence of Helene Buch, he experiences a mild erotic reawakening, but, tired by life, alienated and even repulsed by his own body, and fully resigned to his own inertia, he merely registers these stirrings vaguely and without any active interest in Helene. More an observer of life than a participant in it, he is thoroughly annoyed by Klaus Buch’s intrusion into his placid vacation and by the threat that his former schoolmate poses to his way of being and his tranquillity. Most of all, Helmut would like to flee but is pressured by the others into submitting to the heartiness and joviality of a renewed, if imposed, friendship. All the while pretending—something that he has not only learned to do well throughout his life but also thoroughly enjoys—he plays along. Finally, during an outing on the stormy lake, out of either an instinct for self-preservation or murderous fury—he himself does not know which—he causes Klaus to fall overboard and disappear in the waves.
Klaus Buch (klows bewkh), a freelance journalist specializing in ecological topics. Although also forty-six years old, he is slender,...
(The entire section is 741 words.)