The scene of action is Bonn, the time of action roughly coincides with the date of creation of the novel. The very narrative is a long monologue by Hans Schnir, a comic actor or, more simply, a clown.
Hans is twenty-seven years old, and he recently survived the heaviest blow of fate – he left him to marry Tsyupfner, “this Catholic,” Marie, his first and only love. The deplorable position of Hans is exacerbated by the fact that after the departure of Marie he began to drink, why he began to work carelessly, and this immediately affected his earnings. Moreover, on the eve, in Bochum, portraying Charlie Chaplin, he slipped and injured his knee. The money received for this performance, he barely had enough to get home.
The apartment is ready for Hans’ arrival, his acquaintance, Monika Silva, who was warned by a telegram, took care of this. Hans hardly manages to distance himself from the house. His apartment, a gift of his grandfather, on the fifth floor, where everything is painted in rusty-red colors: doors, wallpaper, wall cabinets. Monica cleaned the apartment, stuffed the refrigerator with food, put flowers and a lighted candle in the dining room, and a bottle of cognac, cigarettes, ground coffee on the table in the kitchen. Hans drinks half a glass of cognac, and pours the other half onto a swollen knee. One of Hans’s urgent concerns is to get money, he has only one stamp left. Seated and more comfortably laying a sore leg, Hans
Now Hans calls his brother Leo, who has chosen a spiritual career for himself. He does not manage to talk to his brother, because at that moment the students-theologians are having dinner. Hans tries to learn something about Marie, calling to members of her Catholic circle, but they only advise him to bravely bear the blow of fate, invariably ending the conversation by the fact that Marie was not his wife by law. The agent calls Hans, Tsonerer. He is rude and hamovat, but sincerely feels sorry for Hans and promises to do it again if he quit drinking and will spend three months in training. After putting the phone down, Hans realizes that this is the first person in the evening, with whom he would have liked to talk more.
There is a ring at the door. Hans comes to his father, Alphonse Shnir, CEO of the coal concern Shnirov. Father and son are confused, they have little experience of communication. My father wants to help Hans, but in his own way. He consulted with Gennenholm, and he advises Hans to go in for pantomime to one of the best teachers, completely leaving the old manner of speaking. Father is ready to finance these classes. Hans refuses, explaining that it is too late for him to study, it is only necessary to work. “So you do not need money?” the father asks with some relief in his voice. But it turns out that we need. Hans has only one brand, lying around in his trouser pocket. Learning that the training of his son requires about a thousand marks a month, the father is shocked. According to his ideas, the son could manage with two hundred stamps, he is even ready to give three hundred a month. Eventually the conversation turns into a different plane, and Hans can not again talk about money. Seeing his father, Hans, to remind him of the money, begins to juggle with his only coin, but this does not work. After the departure of his father, Hans calls Bele Brozen, his mistress-actress, and asks, if possible, to inspire his father that he, Hans, is in terrible need of money. He puts the tube with the sensation “that nothing will fall from this source,” and in a fit of anger throws the brand out of the window. At the same instant, he regrets this and is ready to go down to look for her on the pavement, but is afraid to miss the call or arrival of Leo. On Hans, memories, now genuine, are fictitious. Unexpectedly, he calls Monica Silva. She asks her to come and at the same time is afraid that she will agree, but Monica is waiting for the guests. Besides, she leaves for two weeks to attend the seminar. And then he promises to come. Hans hears her breathing in the tube. Hans again remembers his nomadic life with Marie and represents her present, not believing that she can not completely think about him and do not remember him. Then he goes to the bedroom to make out. From the time of his arrival, he did not go there, afraid to see anything of Marie’s things. But she left nothing – not even a torn off button, and Hans can not decide whether it’s bad or good.
He decides to go out singing on the street: sit on the steps of the Bonn station as it is, without makeup, only with a white face, “and sing the akathists, playing along on the guitar.” Put a hat next to it, it would be nice to throw a few pfennigs there, or maybe a cigarette. The father could get him the license of a street singer, Hans continues to dream, and then one can sit quietly on the steps and wait for the arrival of a Roman train. And if Marie can pass by and not embrace him, there is still suicide. The knee hurts less, and Hans takes the guitar and begins to prepare for a new role. Leo’s calling: he can not come, because he needs to return to a certain date, but it’s too late.
Hans stretches bright green trousers and a blue shirt, looks in the mirror – brilliantly! The white is too thick and cracked, the dark hair seems like a wig. Hans imagines how his family and friends will throw coins into his hat. On the way to the station, Hans understands that now carnival. Well, for him it’s even better, a professional is the easiest to hide among amateurs. He puts the pillow on the step, sits down on it, puts a cigarette in his hat – on the side, as if someone had dropped it, and begins to sing. Suddenly, the first coin falls into the hat – ten pfennigs. Hans corrects the cigarette, which almost falls out, and continues to sing.