Chapters 1-2 Summary
Udo Berger and his girlfriend, Ingeborg, are vacationing in the Costa Brava, a beachfront resort in the Catalonia region of Spain. Their hotel, the Del Mar, is a repository of memory for Udo, who is nostalgic for his childhood vacations spent with his brother and parents, his quirky and permissive Aunt Giselle, and José―a summer friend who worked at the Del Mar ten years ago. Uppermost in his wistful memories is Frau Else, the hotel's proprietor, who was kind to him as a child and whom Udo found beautiful and mysterious. His glimpse of Frau Else inspires an onrush of memory. He finds her ageless, and he looks forward to meeting her again.
Udo notes that both he and the hotel row, the Paseo Marítimo, have "come up in the world." The Del Mar is more luxurious, and he is a man now with a girlfriend whose beauty he is proud of, friendships he finds deep and meaningful, good health, and a steady job. He rhapsodizes about Ingeborg and hopes to marry her someday. She sleeps while Udo records his restless thoughts. Ingeborg hopes to enjoy the beach, the bars, and her Florian Linden detective novel for the weeks they spend in the Costa Brava. Udo intends to work.
Udo is disappointed that Frau Else does not remember him. He reports that after explaining at length who he is, even dredging up "some rather evocative incidents" he would rather not have, she recalls his mother and Aunt Giselle. Nevertheless, in her eventual response, "You've grown so much," he believes he detects subtle meanings.
Udo reveals that the diary he is keeping is an exercise suggested by his best friend, Conrad, to improve his writing. Udo wishes to prevent any defects in his writing by detracting from the content of his articles, which are published in "specialized journals." He is incensed by readers who, despite his stature as a champion in his field, insist on picking apart...
(The entire section is 675 words.)