At the end of yet another academic semester, and the dissolution of yet another group of students of whom he has become extremely fond, Professor Wissler finds himself reminiscing about his thirty years in the teaching profession. His nostalgic odyssey, full of amusing anecdotes and delightful vignettes, forms the core of the story.
He recalls how at the age of twenty-one, immediately after World War II, he won a Fulbright scholarship to teach at a school in Versailles. His French was little better than the boys’ English, but the students were respectful and his stay was pleasant enough. The following year had seen him working in Heidelberg, decoding cables for the army and supplementing his income by teaching English language and literature at the university. Heidelberg was full of American soldiers, and the war was a vivid presence in his mind, as he taught the sons and daughters of those who had recently been his enemies. He recalls the beautiful, exquisitely courteous Fraulein Hochhusen, with her “heart-rending popped blue eyes,” and “hypnotic lips.” His amorous feelings toward her are clear enough to him (“I love you”) but carefully shielded from the girl herself. Wissler is always conscious of the sexual charms of his female students, but he has carefully trained himself to feel love “with the sexuality displaced.” That, he thinks to himself, has been “priestly excruciation.”
At the start of the Korean War, he moved to Frankfurt, to take up a higher-paying job teaching American...
(The entire section is 627 words.)