The Torrents of Spring is cast as a remembrance of the past. Its brief introduction, which functions as a frame for the narrative, introduces the reader to Dimitry Pavlovich Sanin at age fifty-two. The middle-aged Sanin, who has just returned to his rooms after an evening spent with “attractive women and cultured men,” is tormented by “the thought of the vanity, the uselessness, the vulgar falsity of all things human” and beset by a growing fear of age, sickness, and death. He imagines himself sitting in a small boat as horrifying monsters rise slowly toward him. While searching aimlessly through old papers in an effort “to rid himself by some kind of external occupation of the thoughts that troubled him,” Sanin discovers a small garnet cross. This chance discovery starts a process of remembrance through which Sanin reconstructs a romantic incident that occurred when he was a twenty-one-year-old, an occurrence that soured the remainder of his life.
The youthful Sanin, as recalled by himself in middle age, is a weak-willed Russian nobleman who is traveling about Germany before returning home to take a civil service position. As he walks along a street in Frankfurt, he is accosted by Gemma Roselli, a beautiful young woman who runs from a pastry shop, seeking assistance for her brother, Emilio. She is convinced that he has stopped breathing and is dying. Sanin helps restore Emilio and is applauded by Gemma and her family as the boy’s savior. Sanin is easily convinced by the Rosellis to stay longer in Frankfurt, and he soon discovers that he is infatuated with Gemma.
Gemma, however, is engaged to Karl Kluber, a repulsively businesslike German, and this engagement is encouraged by Gemma’s mother. Leonora Roselli is the widow of an Italian confectioner who has continued the family business after her husband’s death, but she believes that Gemma’s successful marriage to the wealthy Kluber is the only guarantee of the family’s financial future. This awkward situation...
(The entire section is 824 words.)