Prague, the beginning of the century. The narration is from the first person. The hero is not sleeping, or awake. Moonlight falls in the foothold of his bed. The hero feels that his sleeping body lies in bed, and “the feelings are separated from the body and do not depend on him anymore” …
Suddenly he finds himself in the sullen courtyard of the Prague ghetto, sees his neighbors – a fourteen-year-old red-haired Rosina and a man with round fish eyes and a forked harelip – Aaron Wassertrum, a junkie, Rosina tries to attract the attention of the hero, jealously watched by one of the twin brothers, adolescent Lois. The hero is in his closet. Wassertrum looks at the walls of the neighboring house, adjacent to the hero’s window. What can he see there? After some time, from behind the wall, from the next studio a joyful woman’s laugh is heard. The hero immediately recalls that his acquaintance, the puppet-actor-puppeteer Tsvak, several days ago, turned in his studio to the “young important gentleman”, so that he could meet with his lady of heart without spies. A woman’s laughter behind the wall awakens the hero’s vague memories of one rich house, where he often had to restore expensive antiques. Suddenly a shrill scream is heard nearby, then a creak of an iron attic door. A young woman, pale as death, bursts into the room, shouting: “Master Pernath, for Christ’s sake, hide me!” For a moment the door opens again, behind it is Aaron Wassertrum’s face, which looks like a terrible mask.
Before the hero, a patch of moonlight again appears in the foot of his bed. Atanasius Pernath – why does he know this name? Once upon a time, he confused his hat with a stranger. On her white silk lining gold letters were written the name of the owner – “Atanasius Pernath.”
The hero again feels like Pernate. To him, an engraver-restorer, comes an unknown and brings a book in which it is necessary to correct the initial made of two leaves of fine gold. Pernath begins to flip through the book, astonishing visions appear before him. One of them – a couple embroidered in embraces, before his eyes took the whole form of semi-half-woman, half-woman, hermaphrodite, and sitting on a mother-of-pearl throne in a mahogany crown. Waking from the visions, Pernath wants to find the person who brought the book, but he disappeared. Pernat tries – and can
not – remember his face. Only by presenting himself in his place, Pernath feels that he is becoming like him: a beardless face, prominent cheekbones, slanting eyes – yes it’s Golem! There is a legend about the Golem. Once upon a time, a rabbi, according to the canons of Kabbalah, made from clay an artificial man, the Golem, that he helped him as a servant. The Golem dragged on a miserable semi-conscious existence and came to life only when the rabbi put a note with magical signs in his mouth. One day, when he forgot to take it out, Golem was furious and began to destroy everything around. The rabbi rushed to him and took out a piece of paper with signs. Then the idol fell dead to the ground. It is said that he appears in the city every thirty-three years.
Pernath sees himself in the courtyard, next to him – a student Harouzek in a worn summer coat with a raised collar. The student hates the junkman and assures Pernata that it was he, Harouzek, who is to blame for the death of the junket’s son, Dr. Vassori, the eye doctor-charlatan. Savioli is the name of a young gentleman who rented a room next to Pernata’s cot.
Pernath receives a letter from a woman who was recently rescued from a junkman. She asks him about a meeting. Angelina – that’s the name of a woman – remembers Pernata from childhood. Now she needs his help: junkman Wassertrum wants to bring the sick doctor Savioli to suicide. Angelina is married, she is afraid that her husband finds out about her treason, and gives Pernat for storage his correspondence with Savioli.
In the neighborhood of Pernat, Shmaya Hillel, an archivist in the Jewish Town Hall, lives with her beautiful daughter Miriam. Miriam is pure in heart and lives in anticipation of a miracle that will transform life. At the same time, the expectation itself is so dear to her, that sometimes she wants a miracle to happen. In his visions, Pernath feels like a Golem, and Shma Hillel seems to him a rabbi-master, and this is a peculiar coloring of their real relationships. Pernath carves a cameo with a portrait of Miriam on the moonstone, which reminds him of the images of an ancient book that so excited him. Pernath loves Miriam, but still does not realize this, and before he realizes, there will still be many things: meetings with Angelina, the feverish speeches of Harouzek, full of hatred for Wassertrum; the intrigues of Wassertrum, as a result of which Pernath is sent to prison on false charges; his mystical communication with Miriam,
After leaving the prison, Pernut rushes to look for Shmay Hillel and his daughter and sees that the quarter is destroyed, the reconstruction of this district of the city is under way. Pernath can not find his friends – the puppeteer of Zwak, the blind Neftali Shafranek. In the absence of Pernat, the junkman Wassertrum died, and the student Harouzek committed suicide on his grave, bequeathed a third of the inheritance of Pernatus, inherited from Wassertrum.
Pernath is going to spend this money in search of Shmai Hillel and his daughter. In the meantime, he rented an apartment in the only untouched reconstruction of the house in the entire quarter – in the very place where, according to tradition, the Golem was sometimes seen. At Christmas, when Pernath sits at a lighted Christmas tree, he is his twin – Golem. A fire begins in the house. Pernath descends down the rope, he is seen in one of the windows of Hillel and Miriam, he joyfully calls them… and breaks off the rope.
Suddenly the hero comes to his senses: he is lying on a bed, in the foothills of which there is a spot of moonlight. And Pernath is not his name at all, it is written on the white silk lining of the hat, which he mixed with his one in the cathedral in Hradcany the day before. The hero tries to follow the path of Pernata. In one of the courgettes nearby, he learns that he married Miriam. Finally, after a long search, the hero finds himself at Pernata’s house near the “Wall at the last lantern,” where “no living soul can live.” On the double-edged gate – the god-hermaphrodite on the mother-of-pearl throne. The old servant, with silver buckles on his shoes, in a jabot and an old coat, takes a hat, and before the hero in the span of the gate appears a garden and temple-like marble house, and on the stairs Atanasius Pernath and Miriam. Miriam is as good and young as in the hero’s dream, and the face of Pernata seems to the hero his own reflection in the mirror. The servant returns and gives the hero his hat.