Strauch, mad painter, isolates himself from the world by retreating to the hamlet of Weng near Schwarzach im Pongau. His surgeon brother has Strauch watched by his young medical assistant, who narrates the book. The inn where Strauch resides is managed by a woman with a husband in prison and an endless sequence of lovers. The story includes a significant amount of violence and murder.
The character Strauch has a tendency to speak in long, ranting monologues, which characterises all of Bernhard’s subsequent work. Another element in Bernhard’s style is repetition: he often repeats phrases with minor variations. As the narrative progresses, the voice of the young narrator increasingly disappears into the voice of Strauch.