Part 1, Chapters 1-5 Summary

Waiting for Sunrise begins on a clear day in Vienna in 1913. Lysander Ulrich Rief is an Englishman who has given up his future plans and has invested his savings in a move to Vienna. Lysander has come to see Dr. J. Bensimon, a psychoanalyst trained by Sigmund Freud. In his rush and anxiety to meet with Bensimon for the first time, Lysander forgets his boater hat on a park bench. Instead of returning to retrieve it, he carries on to his appointment. Along the way, he sees a poster of a woman, barely clothed. He cannot make out what she is doing because the poster has been torn down, presumably due to its indecency. Lysander wonders what it might have been about and speculates that it might be related to some Greek myth.

At Dr. Bensimon’s office, he meets Miss Bull, an Englishwoman. She asks Lysander for a cigarette and takes two from him. When Bensimon and a man exit the doctor’s office, Miss Bull “barges” the queue to see the doctor. Alwyn Munro introduces himself and suggests that he and Lysander might have met before, as the latter looks so familiar. When Lysander mentions that Bull cadged two of his cigarettes, Munro warns him that she looks dangerous.

During the session, Bensimon sits behind Lysander. The young Englishman explains that he cannot achieve orgasm during sex, which the doctor diagnoses as anorgasmia. Lysander is the first person to see Bensimon with this problem. Bensimon tells Lysander to begin keeping a journal, which will allow the doctor an entry into Lysander’s mind. Lysander walks to a shop called WKM, where he buys a small guidebook that he intends to title “Autobiographical Investigations.” He meets Miss Bull again, who introduces herself as Hettie before claiming that Lysander looks familiar to her. She explains that she is staying with Udo Hoff, the painter, and asks for Lysander’s address so that she can invite him to one of her parties.

Lysander returns to the room he is renting at the Pension Kriwanek. He is taking German lessons with Herr Barth, a musician who also boards at the pension. Barth has paid for breakfast but not supper, and he leaves when the dinner bell is rung. Lysander appears for dinner promptly, which pleases Frau Kriwanek (Frau K), a forty-year-old widow who runs the pension. A place is set for Lieutenant Wolfram Rozman, who is also staying at the pension; however, the lieutenant is absent. The serving girl, Traudl, spills soup on the tablecloth, the cleaning of which will come from Traudl’s pay. After supper, Wolfram returns, asks Traudl to bring him bread and cheese, and informs Lysander that Traudl will sleep with the boarders for twenty crowns. When Lysander expresses surprise that such things could happen in Frau K’s pension, Wolfram explains that the pension is just like Austria: it is proper on the surface but underneath runs a “river of sex.”

Part 1, Chapters 6-10 Summary

Lysander’s sessions with Bensimon continue. He shares that his father was Halifax Rief, the acclaimed actor. It impresses Bensimon, who loves the theater. His mother, Anneliese (Anna), is Austrian. After Lysander’s father died, she married Lord Crickmay Faulkner, a man more than twenty years her senior. Bensimon is curious whether Lysander feels any sexual attraction for his mother, which Lysander finds ridiculous. Lysander shares a recurring dream with Bensimon in which he is in a theater, naked, surrounded by clothed women, though he cannot explain its meaning.

Back at the pension, Wolfram emerges from his room in full regalia. He explains that today is to be his tribunal. He is being tried because he was one of twelve men in charge of a locked box that was used to collect funds from the regiment. The funds were to be used to give their colonel a retirement gift. However, at the end of the three months' collection, the soldiers discovered that someone had stolen the money. Wolfram claims he is suspected because he is a Slovene; only the Austrians and Hungarians have real power and status in the empire. Lysander encourages Wolfram to believe in his innocence and shares his whiskey with the lieutenant. Wolfram explains that if the trial goes badly, he may have to commit suicide. As Wolfram leaves, he tells Lysander that “no human being is entirely innocent,” which impresses the young Englishman. After Wolfram leaves, Traudl arrives to pleasure Lysander, explaining that the lieutenant gave her twenty crowns. Lysander declines her offer.

Lysander is engaged to be married, and he receives a letter from his fiancée, Blanche Blondel, an actress, which he reads in the Café Central. She has been with other men, but Lysander has taken care to be honorable. When he leaves the café, he runs into Alwyn Munro. Munro claims that he is a friend of Bensimon rather than a patient. He is a military attaché with the rank of captain,...

(The entire section is 527 words.)

Part 1, Chapters 11-15 Summary

Dr. Bensimon has begun to work on a theory called “parallelism.” Parallelism suggests that the world is “gaunt” until people cover it with details and context. For example, people might find the world around them ugly when they are in a bad mood, but when in a better mood, they might see beauty in all things. Therefore, people’s past is an aggregate of the fictions they create. Bensimon believes that this approach may cure Lysander of his anorgasmia. Lysander is hypnotized and Bensimon inserts a new memory in Lysander’s consciousness. In it, he fell asleep but nothing embarrassing happened. When Lysander awakes, he can recall the second memory, and Bensimon encourages him to rely on it.

Lysander begins to prepare for Udo Hoff’s exhibition by going to a gallery. Along the way, he sees miners and considers whether he could write a poem about them. In the gallery, he practices lines that he can say at the exhibition, like the painting is “striking.” At the exhibition, he finds Hoff’s work impressive because of its subtle transgressions. He also comes across the poster that was torn down in the street. It is for Andromeda und Perseus. Eine Oper in vier Akten von Gottlieb Toller. While looking at the painting, he meets Dr. Bensimon, who informs Lysander that the woman in the painting is Hettie Bull. Lysander shifts his gaze from the woman’s body to her face and realizes it is true. When he meets Hoff, Lysander compliments his work, but the painter is indifferent. Hettie tells Lysander that she would like to draw and sculpt him, and though he is initially uninterested, Lysander agrees.

Lysander reads the start of a letter from his fiancée, Blanche, who informs him that she is about to make a lot of money in film. Lysander is irritated that her letters only express her thoughts but never enter into a dialogue with his. When he arrives at Hettie Bull’s studio in Ottakring, he finds the sculptor in her smock. Beneath it, Lysander notes, she is wearing a muslin blouse and a serge skirt. She has been working on a minotaur whose frame is inspired by Hoff’s body. She asks Lysander to pose nude for her, and at first he thinks that she is joking. However, she is not, and Lysander agrees. Afterward, she shows him her initial drawing and Lysander finds it impressive. She has drawn his penis as well, and she comments that he has a short foreskin, like Hoff. Then she takes him to bed.

Part 1, Chapters 16-20 Summary

Lysander recalls the details of his affair to Dr. Bensimon, though he does not share the identity of his partner, Bensimon’s patient Hettie Bull. Lysander is proud to have made love to Hettie twice and to have climaxed both times. During their pillow talk, he recalls, he asked Hettie whether she had planned the affair all along. She admits that she had planned to sleep with him after they had first met. Regardless, Bensimon agrees that Lysander has been cured. Lysander is struck by why he is attracted to Hattie, who does not appear to be his type at all. Still, he finds himself infatuated with her.

The affair continues over several months, during which time Wolfram leaves the pension. The couple takes great care to prevent Udo Hoff from discovering them. They leave messages for each other at a café and then meet in hotels. During this time, he learns that Hettie has been injecting Coca to control her mood. Lysander is guilty about his betrayal of his fiancée and writes to her to break off their relationship, claiming that it will take him too long to be cured to be fair to her. However, he soon receives a reply from Blanche, who declares that she will stand by him. She refuses to hear any talk of breaking off their engagement. Hettie invites Lysander to a New Year’s Eve party at Hoff’s. Though they are nearly caught together, the drunk painter does not appear suspicious.

Lysander seems to have been cured of his anorgasmia. He even meets Sigmund Freud at a café and claims that Bensimon cured him using parallelism. Freud prefers not to comment on parallelism, but he congratulates Lysander nevertheless. Now, however, Lysander is running out of money, and he regularly writes to his mother for additional funds. He has no income, and Hettie relies entirely on Hoff, who is surprisingly wealthy.

Lysander is confused when he arrives at the café to find a cryptic note from Hettie. She claims that she is a coward. Lysander...

(The entire section is 514 words.)

Part 1, Chapters 21-25 Summary

Lysander is staying in a temporary consulate building, a small villa in the classical style. The prison has two stories and is near a garden, and His Majesty’s government is paying for both the costs of his incarceration and his legal fees. His lawyer, Herr Feuerstein, agrees with Lysander that the best defense will be to reveal the details of his affair with Hettie. Feuerstein takes note of the details of the affair and plans to visit each hotel to gather evidence proving Hettie’s complicity in the affair and that Lysander is innocent of assault.

Lysander asks Munro to bring Hettie to him. She arrives and they kiss passionately. Lysander is later angry with her, but Hettie explains that she could not face Hoff’s anger. She also admits that she read his file when Dr. Bensimon once left it on his desk. Although she does not look pregnant, she swears that if the details of the affair come to light, Hoff will force her to abort the pregnancy. Although Feuerstein returns from his investigations confident in the case, Lysander decides that he will not go to trial.

Instead, he proposes to Munro and to Jack Fyfe-Miller, a naval attaché, that he escape the prison. Munro and Fyfe-Miller begin to discuss what it would mean to leave the prison. First, many of the servants spy on the embassy for the Austrians, and they are at their most alert during the night. So Lysander would do well to leave during the day. The police would expect him to travel north, so it would be a good idea to travel south to Italy, outside of the Austro-Hungarian empire. A man would need at least two hundred crowns, which Munro lays on the table. Fyfe-Miller cautions that a man would have to rely on his ingenuity to escape. When they leave, Lysander discovers a brass key.

He returns to the pension, hoping to find Herr Barth. Though he is out, Traudl answers the door. She is distraught to see him, but Lysander commands her to let him into Barth’s room. He warns that he will tell Frau K that she has been sleeping with the boarders to earn extra money, and he reminds her that she owes him twenty crowns. Lysander then proceeds to the train station wearing clothes that he has stolen from Barth. He carries a double bass and curses in Italian as he approaches the train. The police, looking for an Englishman, ignore him.

When he arrives in Trieste, at the edge of the Italian border, Jack Fyfe-Miller appears. He congratulates Lysander on his ingenious escape. And he reminds Lysander that the young actor still owes His Majesty’s government a great deal of money.

Part 2, Chapters 1-6 Summary

Lysander has returned to London, and it is 1914. He has taken up acting again and is performing two plays—Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and Strindberg’s Miss Julie—with Rutherford Davison’s company. Davison is influenced by the Russian director Constantin Stanislavsky, and so he asks Lysander questions about the characters whose answers are not directly stated in the text. Lysander finds it irritating and worries that he and Davison will not get along. Lysander is less bothered by Davison’s intention to perform the plays so that they will shock society and the censors. Lysander’s leading lady is Gilda Butterfield, and he knows that she is attracted to him.

However, Lysander still has feelings for Hettie. Blanche has figured out that Lysander fell in love while in Vienna and she leaves him, though she suggests that he propose to her again at some point. Lysander travels to the country to visit his mother and her husband, where he tells his mother about his son, Lothar, and his relationship with Hettie. He gives her a copy of Andromeda und Perseus. Eine Oper in vier Akten von Gottlieb Toller with a cover to show her what Hettie looks like. His mother is surprised that Lysander has fallen for a woman so unlike his usual type: tall and thin.

The next day, Lysander hikes cross-country to visit his uncle, Hamo, who is also known as “the Major.” The Major had been a soldier but now works as an explorer. He has just returned from a recent expedition to Africa. Lysander tells the Major about Hettie and Lothar, and they begin to plan the Major’s next expedition, a trip to Vienna to bring back Lothar. The Major has returned to Africa with a child, Femi, who had been his guide along the Niger. When Hamo and Femi travel in the town, the Major tells everyone that Femi is a visiting African prince to calm them.

The plans are delayed, however, due to the rising tensions in Europe. Jack Fyfe-Miller and Alwyn Munro both see Lysander when he returns to the city. Lysander is given his bill of £860, an outstanding sum that he could not hope to pay off. He still owes his mother money, besides. Lysander burns the invoice. After the opening night of Measure for Measure, the critics are scandalized by Davison's interpretation of Shakespeare. Lysander is not bothered, and he soon sleeps with Gloria. Though their performance is meant to shock, the papers are soon preoccupied with the declaration of war. Lysander receives word from Hettie that she will change Lothar’s surname to Hoff to keep the boy safe.

Part 2, Chapters 7-12 Summary

Lysander has joined the military, in part out of a need for routine and distraction and in part due to a fantasy that he might march into Vienna and reclaim his son. Now, he is assigned to the Bishop’s Bay Internment Camp, which holds “illegal and enemy aliens.” He spends his time seeing men and women, like Frau Schumacher, who complain to him about their health and their wrongful incarceration. Lysander’s commanding officer is Captain J. St.J. Teesdale, a nineteen-year-old trying to grow a moustache. The other soldiers refer to Lysander as “Actor,” but they tolerate him because he buys them drinks at a local pub. When he returns from the pub one evening, the sergeant tells him that an officer has come to collect him....

(The entire section is 543 words.)

Part 3, Chapters 1-5 Summary

It is 1915 when Lysander arrives in Geneva. He is to make contact with Agent Bonfire in a brasserie called the Taverne Des Anglais. Bonfire reads all of the correspondence that goes through the German consulate. Bonfire will lead him to the German agent who holds the key to the cipher. Lysander recalls asking Massinger what he should do if the agent refuses his offered bribe; he was told to start cutting off the agent’s fingers. After he arrives in Geneva, Lysander frequents the Taverne Des Anglais, but Agent Bonfire does not arrive. Lysander grows bored of waiting but has no choice. He spends his time touring Geneva, and, haunted by the two men he killed in no man’s land, struggles to sleep.

When Agent Bonfire...

(The entire section is 540 words.)

Part 4, Chapters 1-5 Summary

Shot and dying, Lysander is fortunately discovered by one of the ship’s crewmen. Massinger transports Lysander to a British base hospital. He has been shot once in the leg, a wound that leaves him with a temporary limp. The second shot passed through both his left hand and his shoulder. The last shot collapsed his lung. He returns to Oxford by the end of August 1915. He is visited at one point by Massinger, who explains that his boyish French led Madame Duchesne to believe her orders had been to shoot Lysander should she doubt his loyalty and honesty. Massinger apologizes for the mistake.

He meets with Munro, who congratulates Lysander on the success of his mission. When asked about Glockner's death, Lysander lies and...

(The entire section is 488 words.)

Part 4, Chapters 6-10 Summary

Lysander begins to interview the officers of the Directorate of Movements. He narrows the list down to three primary suspects, all of whom have access to the relevant information. They have also recently traveled to France. The first is Osborne-Way, who is in charge of the department. Osborne-Way, who is suspicious to Lysander because he seems innocent, has also opposed Lysander’s presence since the latter’s arrival. Major Mansfield Keogh, meanwhile, is Osborne-Way’s second in command. Finally, Captain Christian Vandenbrook supervises the dispatch of ammunition, ordnance, and supplies to France. Lysander adopts a disguise and follows Keogh first. He learns that the Major is in mourning over his wife and moves on.


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Part 4, Chapters 11-15 Summary

Lysander travels to visit his mother. He is initially struck by the feeling that nothing has changed since he was a teenager in Claverleigh, but he then thinks about how much the world has changed. Something new has begun, he thinks, and he resists it. He considers discussing his confusion about the modern world with Bensimon.

He is careful about how he asks his mother about her relationship with Vandenbrook. She does not admit to engaging in an affair with the captain, instead citing her involvement in the Claverleigh Hall War Fund as the reason she knew him. Lysander explains Vandenbrook’s treachery, and his mother soon declares that she will be implicated because she is Austrian. Lysander realizes that he, too,...

(The entire section is 430 words.)

Part 4, Chapters 16-21 Summary

Lysander’s mother, Anna, killed herself by walking into the sea. She left behind a letter explaining that she felt Lysander was putting himself in harm’s way trying to protect her. He recalls Wolfram’s declaration that he would have committed suicide—Selbstmord—if he had been found guilty. When Lysander tells Bensimon what has happened, the psychoanalyst admits that it was quite normal in Vienna. Lysander asks whether the psychoanalyst had ever met Alwyn Munro and Bensimon answers carefully, explaining that Munro was a patient.

While at work, Lysander takes a call on the telephone. It is Hettie Bull, and Lysander agrees to meet with her. She accuses Lysander of cheating on her, and Lysander reminds...

(The entire section is 545 words.)