At the beginning of Peter Handke's novel, Gregor Keuschnig awakens from a nightmare in which he has committed murder, and announces, "From today on, I shall be leading a double life." The duplicity, however, lies only in Keuschnig's mind; his everyday life as the press atache for the Austrian Embassy in Paris continues much as before: routine paperwork, walks in the city, futile intimacies with his family and his mistress. But Keuschnig is oblivious to it all, merely simulating his previous identity while he searches for a higher significance, a mystical moment of true sensation which can free him from what the novel calls life's "dreadful normalcy." Convinced that, if he fails, life's meaning will be revealed to him only when it is too late, he looks for portents everywhere.
Keuschnig's search takes him through all of Paris. At every step, his feelings are interwoven with acute observation of its streets, buildings, cafes, parks, sky. It is an intimate and evocative journey, in a city that is at once supportive and familiar, strange and provocative.