September 6, 1958 This day one of the main characters of the novel, the architect Henry Femel, turns eighty years old. The anniversary is a good occasion to evaluate the life you have lived through. More than fifty years ago he appeared in this city, almost at the last moment submitted his project for the erection of the abbey of St. Anthony to the competition and – an unknown stranger – defeated the other contenders. From the very first steps in an unfamiliar city, Henry Fehmel is well aware of the future life: marriage to a girl from some noble family, many children – five, six, seven, – a lot of grandchildren, “five seven, six seven, seven seven”; he sees himself at the head of the family, sees birthdays, weddings, silver weddings, christenings, great-grandsons… Life deceives Henry Femel’s expectations. Those who are going on his eightieth birthday, literally on the fingers of one hand. This is the old man himself, his son Robert Femel,
his grandchildren – Joseph and Ruth, Henry’s secretary, Robert Leonor, the second son, Otto, who in his youth became alien to his family by joining those who took part in the “buffalo”, went to war and died.
Henry Femel’s wife is kept in the “sanatorium”, a privileged hospital for the mentally ill. Without accepting the existing reality, Johanna allows herself to be very bold statements about the powerful, and to keep her, she must be kept locked up.
Robert Femel still as a schoolboy swears not to accept the “participle of the buffalo” and does not betray her. In his youth, together with a group of peers, he enters into a fight against fascism and is forced to flee the country, brutally beaten with whips of barbed wire. A few years later, the amnestied Robert returns to Germany to his parents, Edith’s wife and Josef, who was born without him. He serves in the army, but his service turns into revenge for deceased friends. Robert is a demolition man, he “provides a shelling sector” and without any annihilation destroys architectural monuments,
including the father’s built abbey of St. Anthony, blown up without any special need for three days before the end of the war. Robert’s wife, Edith, is killed in the bombing. After the war, Robert leads the “office on static calculations,” he employs only three architects, which Leonora sends out a few orders. He condemns himself to voluntary seclusion: on the red card, which Robert once gave to Leonora, is: “I’m always glad to see my mother, father, daughter, son and master Srella, but I do not accept anyone else.” In the mornings, from half past ten to eleven, Robert plays billiards at the Prince Henry Hotel in the hotel battle society, Hugo. Hugo is pure soul and unselfish, not subject to temptations. He belongs to the “lambs”, as Edith died, as her brother Shrella. Robert plays billiards at the Hotel Prince Henry in the hotel battle society, Hugo. Hugo is pure soul and unselfish, not subject to temptations. He belongs to the “lambs”, as Edith died, as her brother Shrella. Robert plays billiards at the Hotel Prince Henry in the hotel battle society, Hugo. Hugo is pure soul and unselfish, not subject to temptations. He belongs to the “lambs”, as Edith died, as her brother Shrella.
Srella is a friend of Robert Femel’s youth. Like Robert, he was forced to leave Germany on pain of death and returned only now to see Robert and his nephews.
On September 6, 1958, it turns out to be a turning day for Henry Femel and for his son. On that day, realizing the falsity of following the logic of his own contrived image, he breaks off with his long habit of visiting the Croner café, refuses to accept a gift from the fascist Greek, the owner of a butcher’s shop, and symbolically brings the knife over the commemorative cake sent from the cafe in the form of St. Anthony’s abbey.
Robert Femel on this day shows his former classmate, Netlinger, a devotee of the buffalo, that the past is not forgotten and not forgiven. On the same day he adopts the “lamb” Hugo, assumes responsibility for him.
And for Joseph Femel, the grandson of Henry and the son of Robert, the young architect, this day becomes decisive. Seeing his father’s notes on the ruins of the walls of the abbey of St. Anthony, a clear handwriting familiar to him since childhood, inexorably evidencing that the abbey was blown up by his father, Josef is in crisis and eventually refuses an honorable and advantageous order, from the management of the restoration work in the abbey.
Johanna Femel, who is released from the hospital on the occasion of a family holiday, also takes a decisive step – she shoots a long-prepared pistol in the minister, Mr. M., shoots like a future killer of his grandson.
The results of the past life are summed up. And for those gathered in the workshop of the old architect, a new day begins, on September 7.