Short summary - Doctor Fischer of Geneva or The bomb party
Henry Graham Greene
The story takes place in Switzerland, where the main character lives, the Englishman Alfred Jones, on behalf of whom the narrative is being conducted. Jones tells us about his meeting with Dr. Fisher and his daughter, Anna Louise.
The meeting of Jones and Anna-Louise was absolutely random, because they were essentially separated by a whole world. Anna-Louise, a sweet young lady who was not yet 21 years old, and her millionaire father lived in a large white palace on the banks of a picturesque lake, in the vicinity of Geneva. Dr. Fisher made a fortune from the invention of the «Toothbrush Bouquet» - a toothpaste supposedly protecting against tooth decay (however, Fisher himself did not use his invention and could not stand it when he was reminded of the source of his income). Dr. Fisher, although he was a devil in the flesh, outwardly was no different from all other people; he was a man of about fifty (or a little more), with red hair and hair themselves, who began to lose their fiery shine (he must have tinted his mustache); bags hung under his eyes, and his eyelids were very heavy. He looked like he was suffering from insomnia.
Alfred Jones was already fifty at the start of the story; in 1940, during the bombing of London, he lost his left hand, while his mother and father, a petty official in the diplomatic service, died. Jones' first wife died in childbirth twenty years ago, taking with her a child. In Switzerland, Jones worked as a translator and writer at the Vevey chocolate factory; his meager disability pension and salary were hardly equal to Dr. Fisher’s earnings for half an hour.
Strange and ominous rumors circulated about Dr. Fisher and his dinners, spoke of his arrogance, contempt for everything in the world, cruelty. The only people he endured were the so-called «friends,» whom Anna Louise called the «toads» («greedy»). There were five toads: Film actor Richard Dean - an alcoholic, selfish, womanizer and complete lack of talent, every night scrolling through copies of his old films; he claimed that King Lear was utter nonsense because he knew that he was unable to play it even in a movie. Kruger is a very old and gray-haired division commander, who was called only out of flattery a general who never fought and never showed valor, either on the battlefields or in ordinary life; Kruger had a straight, stick-like back and one leg that did not bend from rheumatism, with a conquistador nose and a fierce mustache. Kips is an international lawyer, a skinny old man, spinal disease bent almost double, resembling a figure of seven. Belmon - tax consultant; the owner of a dark suit, dark tie, dark hair, thin body, thin lips and artificial smile; income taxes taught him evasion. Mrs. Montgomery is an American, a widow with blue hair, adorned with rings and bracelets like a Christmas tree.
All toads settled in the vicinity of Geneva solely in order not to pay taxes in their own countries. Dr. Fisher was richer than all the toads, he ruled them with a whip and a carrot. All the toads were very wealthy, but they were too attracted to carrots! It was only because of them that they put up with Dr. Fisher's vile dinners, where guests were first humiliated and then gifted. In the end, they learned to laugh even before they played a joke on them; moreover, they considered themselves chosen.
Jones first met Anna-Louise in a cafe for sandwiches: she mistakenly took his table, and then the waitress mixed up their orders. And suddenly the young girl and the elderly man «felt like two friends who met after a long separation.» Then there was a month of fleeting meetings, before they realized that they loved each other. What could have attracted Anna Louise in a man over fifty? Perhaps she was looking for a tender father in him, a real family that she never had.
On the very first night of their real date, Jones made an offer to Anne-Louise, to which she agreed. The only thing that confused Jones was the reaction of Dr. Fisher, suddenly he would be against such a misalliance. But Anna-Louise said that, most likely, the doctor is completely indifferent; she returned to her white palace, packed her suitcase and, without saying a word to anyone, moved into Jones' modest, meagerly furnished apartment.
But the indifferent silence of Dr. Fisher bothered Jones, so he decided to visit the doctor and talk about the engagement, despite the warnings of Anna Louise. With great reluctance, Jones was allowed into Dr. Fisher's house, where he met the first two toads - Mrs. Montgomery and Kips. Mrs. Montgomery hypocritically stated that their "close company" simply adores Dr. Fisher and his "wonderful sense of humor." But only on the next visit, Jones managed to meet with Dr. Fisher. To the wedding announcement, Dr. Fisher replied that he did not care that the news would be easier to communicate in a letter.
A week later, Alfred Jones and Anna-Louise Fisher got married at City Hall. There was no news from Dr. Fisher, only in the back of the room was a very tall, skinny man with hollow cheeks and a teak in his left eye. It was the third toad, Monsieur Belmont, who handed Jones an envelope with a standard invitation to "dinner" to Dr. Fischer. Anna-Louise initially persuaded her husband to decline the invitation («he wants you to become one of the toads»), but then changed her mind: «I know that you are not a toad, but you won’t know this if you don’t go to his damn dinner ... Maybe he will spare you. He did not spare my mother. » Anna-Louise said that her mother loved the music that her father hated - the music seemed to tease him with what was inaccessible to him.
Mother began to run away alone to concerts and at one of them she met a man who shared her love of music. They even began to buy records together and listen to them secretly at his house. There was no physical closeness between them ...
Then Dr. Fisher found out about everything. He began to interrogate her, and she told him the truth, but he did not believe the truth, although he probably did, but he didn’t care if she cheated on him with a man or with Mozart’s record. His jealousy acted on her so much that she felt guilty of something, although she did not know what exactly. She asked for forgiveness, humiliated, and he said that he forgives her, and this only exacerbated the feeling of guilt (which means there was something to forgive), but he also said that he could never forget her betrayal ...
Fisher found out the name of her friend, a harmless little music lover, went to his master, Mr. Kips, and gave fifty thousand francs so that he would be fired without recommendation ... What happened to this person, Anna-Louise’s mother didn’t recognize, after a few years she died, forced herself to die.
Dr. Fisher insanely insulted that his "rival" was just a clerk! He would not be offended if it were a millionaire. Fisher never recovered from this blow. Then he learned to hate and despise people, then he began to arrange his «dinners».
The first victim was Mr. Kips, in a sense the «accomplice» of Dr. Fisher. Mr. Kips had a spinal defect, his figure resembled the number 7. Fisher hired a well-known children's writer and a very good cartoonist, and together they created the book «Mr. Kips's Adventures in Search of the Dollar». The book turned out to be very funny and very cruel, it was released on Christmas days in a huge circulation and put up in every window of all bookstores. And at the first of the dinner parties, Mr. Kips, instead of the usual luxurious gift, was given a bag with a copy of this book specially bound in red morocco. «The rich have no pride; they are only proud of their fortune. You need to ceremony with the poor, »said Dr. Fisher.
«You are not Mr. Kips, not rich, and we are not dependent on him,» said Anna-Louise. - "We are free. Remember this. We are too small people to offend us. »
On the day of the «supper,» Jones arrived at Fisher’s residence. Five expensive cars met him at the entrance, and in the living room - a society brilliant in all respects. Jones literally physically felt waves of hostility directed at him: his appearance, he reduced the "high level" of the meeting.
During the aperitif, Dr. Fisher made humiliating jokes about the crowd, who laughed in response as if on command. During the «fun», Jones was told that each participant at the end of the dinner receives a small but very valuable gift. It is only necessary not to argue with the small "quirks" of the owner. Sometimes he can serve guests with live lobsters and a bowl of boiling water - everyone had to personally catch and cook their lobster («Cancer Dinner»). Another time they offered live quail («Quail dinner»). Refused to complete the task lost the gift.
Guests were invited to a richly served table. Fisher offered a toast in memory of Madame Fairjon, who committed suicide two years ago. In his speech, Fisher noted that of all the people at this table, she was the richest and most greedy; she is ready to endure anything, just to earn a gift, although she could freely buy herself and more expensive. The second toast was for Monsieur Grozeli. Fisher noted that if he knew that Grozely had cancer, he would never have invited him - Grozely died too quickly and did not allow the doctor to have enough fun.
A servant came in with a large can of caviar, which he set before the master; guests perked up in anticipation of a sumptuous dinner. However, the guests were brought ... a cold, completely inedible oatmeal. The guests were shocked by the treats, but after a hint of gifts, they eagerly began to eat the first and then the second portion. Jones watched what was happening with curiosity and disgust - no gift in the world would make him taste oatmeal.
Dr. Fisher, laying eggs to himself, noted that he had been studying the greed of the rich for more than a year. They could easily buy the gifts promised after dinner themselves, but they are ready for anything, just to get them for free. And there is no limit to this greed, they, with pleasure, like Krupp, would sit at the table with Hitler and, in the hope of graces, would share any meal with him.
Fisher himself is also greedy, but his greed is of a different sort. She is like the greed of God. And let some believe that God is greedy for love; love in the understanding of Dr. Fisher is just a stilted image in a stupid novel, and all women are potential liars. God is greedy for the humiliation of his "defective", imperfect creatures, clumsily blindly "in the image and likeness." And so that the humiliated do not fall into despair, God from time to time throws up «presents» (for example, he threw Anna-Louise to the old man and the crippled Jones).
At the end of the dinner, the guests pounced on gifts, all but Mr. Kips, who was sick of eating oatmeal. And all the guests were angry with Jones, because he witnessed their «game» and the fact that not one of the guests decided to interrupt it.
No more invitations to the «dinners» followed. Jones and Anna Louise were left alone. And they were happy, made plans for the future, dreamed of a child.
Winter came. Anna-Louise was a good skier (her mother put her on skis at four), so the family spent the weekend in the mountains. While Anna-Louise was skiing, Jones was waiting for her in some cafe.
Although Dr. Fisher no longer made himself felt, the thought of him lurked all the time somewhere in Jones's subconscious. And one day he had a dream: Dr. Fisher, all in tears standing on the edge of an open grave. «Maybe it was my mother’s grave,» said Anna-Louise. And the next day they went to a music store. The seller, an elderly man of short stature and timid appearance, did not take his eyes off Anna Louise. Jones suddenly realized who this man was - a small clerk, «lover» of Dr. Fisher’s wife, Mr. Steiner. And when Jones said that this was the daughter of Dr. Fischer from Geneva, a heart attack occurred with Steiner.
Jones visited Steiner in the hospital. Steiner looked broken, he admitted that he loved Anna, the wife of Dr. Fisher, but Anna did not love him. He was not a rival to Fisher, their connection was almost platonic. Steiner suffered all his life according to Anna, but his will was not strong enough to die; he admitted that he saw Dr. Fisher cry at his wife’s funeral.
Christmas has arrived. On Christmas Eve, Anna Louise and Jones went to Mass at the ancient abbey in St. Maurice. There was a romantic atmosphere, they were happy. But at the exit they were waiting for Monsieur Belmon, one of the toads. Monsieur Belmon put an invitation envelope in Jones's hands. Then Mrs. Montgomery appeared, followed by the "general", and the actor, swollen by drunkenness, was arm in arm with the girl. The evening was ruined.
But the next morning, in a cheerful mood, the family went to the mountains as usual, so that Anna Louise could ski. On this occasion, she put on a new sweater - from thick white wool with a wide red stripe on her chest. And Jones, as always, was waiting for his wife in a cafe.
Suddenly, there was a commotion at the funicular: two people were carrying a stretcher. Jones quit reading and went out of curiosity to see what happened. The stretchers were not clearly visible, Jones discerned that there was a gray-haired woman in a red sweater. Then he realized that she was not gray-haired - her head was bandaged before being carried down. The crowd parted, and Jones was horrified to notice that Anna Louise was in a stretcher, and his sweater was red with blood.
There has been an accident. The boy dislocated his ankle on a too difficult track for him. Anna-Louise was coming down, it was difficult for her to go round him. She unsuccessfully turned, slipped on a treacherous infusion and crashed into a tree. In the ambulance, Jones and Anna Louise were taken to the hospital, where she died without regaining consciousness. Jones from the hospital tried to reach Dr. Fisher and report the tragedy, but Dr. Fisher did not want to talk to him (he was busy preparing a dinner party) and suggested that he «write the case out.»
Jones sent Dr. Fisher a letter stating out the circumstances of his daughter’s death and reporting the date and place of the funeral. Dr. Fisher did not attend the funeral.
After the death of Anna Louise, Jones was in despair. He decided to commit suicide: drink in a gulp a quarter liter of whiskey with aspirin. Just got ready - the phone rang. Mrs. Montgomery conveyed the invitation to Dr. Fisher, and it was about the inheritance. Jones did not answer, put down the phone and drained the glass in one gulp.
He slept eighteen hours - a suicide attempt failed. Jones was sick from grief, he wanted to humiliate Dr. Fisher, he wanted to make him suffer, so he decided to come to the white palace.
Dr. Fisher was businesslike and was not in mourning. He "consoled" Jones, saying that sooner or later Anna-Louise would have left him anyway, because women "like to humiliate us." And after the collapse of all hopes, contempt arises, and if this happens, it is necessary to avenge it. The word «forgiveness» is not from the vocabulary of Dr. Fisher. Love is a word from a novel, only money matters, for them people will do anything, even death. Dr. Fisher offered Jones money, a small income bequeathed to Anne-Louise by her mother. But what does money mean before irreparable loneliness! After hearing from the inheritance, Dr. Fisher invited Jones to dinner - the last dinner: "I want you to be present and see with your own eyes what they will reach."
Jones did not abandon the idea of suicide. The problem was that not all options were suitable: he did not have the courage to venture on some of them. Jones lived in a daze, automatically, without realizing himself a report. Why he accepted the invitation of Dr. Fisher is unknown. Perhaps because this made it possible for an hour or two not to think about suicide without much pain or big trouble for others. He decided to commit suicide after a dinner party at Fisher.
It was frosty on the day of dinner. Perhaps that is why dinner was served on the lawn, surrounded by flaming bonfires. All the toads were assembled, Dr. Fisher was standing by a large barrel with bran, in which six crackers were hidden. Five crackers contain identical pieces of paper - checks. The guests were unpleasantly surprised by the lack of gifts: checks were like a bribe, humiliated their dignity, but then quickly forgot about it, because each check was two million francs.
A bomb was hidden in the sixth clapperboard.
Mr. Kips immediately refused to play on such terms and left. The guests were worried about the fate of Mr. Kips' check, the owner reassured - the check would be divided into all. Mrs. Montgomery and Belmon cynically figured out the amount of "gain", given the fact that one certainly will not survive.
Fisher invited Dean to go first, but while he was bracing himself, getting used to the image of the once brave soldier, Mrs. Montgomery shouted, «Dam let them go!» Ran to the barrel, probably calculating the chances for a happy outcome. Mrs. Montgomery resolutely tugged at the clapperboard tongue and, grabbing the check, screeched in delight. Then, eagerly, she ran to the table in order to quickly write her name on the check.
The drunk Dean still stood stretched out, as if on a rack "at attention", therefore Belmon also got an opportunity to run up to a barrel. He paused before pulling out his cracker, smiled smugly, winked, and pulled his tongue. The check was in the clapperboard.
Dean still did not move. Dr. Fisher invited Jones to try his luck, but Jones said he would go last. «You're a boring, stupid guy,» said Dr. Fisher. «What valor to go to death if you want to die.»
Meanwhile, Dean, having drank a couple more glasses of port for courage, famously saluted and walked to the bran barrel, rummaged through it, pulled out a cracker, yanked ... and fell to the ground next to the top hat and check. «Dead drunk,» said Dr. Fisher, and ordered the gardeners to take him home.
Meanwhile, the division commander was dying of fear, and Mrs. Montgomery and Belmon in pleasant excitement chose how to better place two million francs. Since the general did not move, Jones went to the barrel. He calmly took the clapper in his hand, expecting that the death from the bomb could bring him closer to Anne-Louise. The general came up to the barrel. Mrs. Montgomery and Belmon cowardly went home, they did not want to witness a dubious incident, especially since they had already received their gifts.
The general closed his eyes, lowered his hand into the barrel, felt for his cracker, but still hesitantly continued to stand. Then he pulled out a cracker and went to the table, giving Jones the opportunity to take the first chance. The general looked with hope behind the attempt of one-armed Jones to pull out the tongue of the cracker; he probably said to God: "Please, kind god, blow it up!"
There was a check in the clapperboard.
Fisher was ecstatic; he mocked Jones' disappointment and the fear of the general, who almost cried. Jones put his hand in the barrel again and pulled out the last cracker, pulled the tongue.
There was a check in the clapperboard.
Jones took both checks and went to the table. He threw one check to Fisher, and left the other to himself. Fisher was delighted: «You know, Jones, I have a hope that in the end you will not spoil the big picture ... Take away money from the bank tomorrow, hide it well, and I’m sure that you will have the same feelings soon as the rest. I can even arrange my dinners again, if only to see how your greed develops. Mrs. Montgomery, Belmon, Kips and Dean - all of them, in general, were the same when I met them. But I created you like that. Just like God created Adam. »The general cried.
"How you must despise yourself," Jones told Dr. Fisher, then turned to the general: "I will buy your cracker for two million francs." "Not. No, »the general said, barely audible, but did not resist when Jones took the cracker from his fingers.
Jones went down to the lake and for the third time with full confidence in the outcome pulled his tongue - there was a stupid, feeble clap.
There was a creak of footsteps - Steiner came up. He came, desperate and exhausted, to spit in the face of his tormentor, the murderer of his beloved, "almighty god." But then Dr. Fisher himself went down to the lake. Steiner said who he is. All three stood in silence, in the dark, in the snow. Everyone seemed to be waiting for something, but no one knew what it would be. It was a minute when Steiner was supposed to fulfill his plan. But he did not.
Fisher admitted to Jones that he did not want to humiliate him. Fisher admitted that he despises the whole world, despises himself, and this contempt began when Steiner entered his life. Then he stood for a moment, pondering, and walked along the lake until he disappeared from sight.
Steiner told Jones that he did not fulfill his plan because he hates Dr. Fisher. Do not be afraid of hatred, it is not contagious, but when a person begins to despise, he ends up despising the whole world. Then he admitted that he just felt sorry for Fisher.
A sharp clap interrupted the conversation. When Jones and Steiner ran to the sound, they discovered Dr. Fisher's dead body - he shot himself.
Jones concludes his story by admitting that he never found the courage to commit suicide. It made no sense to go after Anna Louise if the road leads to nothing. After all, while we are alive, we can at least remember ...
Sometimes Jones drinks coffee with Monsieur Steiner, and while Steiner talks about the mother of Anna Louise, and Jones thinks about Anna Louise herself. Toads still live in Geneva, but at a meeting they try not to notice Jones. Only Mrs. Montgomery called out to him: «It cannot be, yes it is you, Mr. Smith!» - but now Jones pretended not to hear.