Short summary - Siegfried et le Limousin
The story is told from the perspective of the narrator, whose name is Jean. In January 1922, he looked through German newspapers to find at least one kind word about France, and suddenly stumbled upon an article signed with the initials “Z. FK ", where phrases from the story of his friend Forestier, who disappeared during the war, are almost literally repeated. To Jean's amazement, in subsequent opuses the impudent plagiarist contrived to borrow something from Forestier's unpublished legacy.
The riddle seems insoluble, but then fate itself sends Count von Zelten to Jean. Jean once loved Celten as much as he loved Germany. Now this country does not exist for him, but sometimes he feels the bitterness of loss. At one time, Zelten came up with a funny game, proposing to share disputed territories in the highest moments of friendship and love. As a result, Zelten gave his friend the whole of Alsace, but Jean held on firmly and tore only one insignificant district from France at the moment when Zelten looked especially like a naive good-natured German. Upon meeting, Zelten admits that he fought for four years in order to return his gift. There is a deep scar on his arm - Jean had never seen the healed trace of a French bullet before. Zelten remained alive - perhaps some grain of love for Germany is still capable of being reborn.
After hearing Jean's story about the mysterious plagiarist, Tsedten promises to find out everything and soon informs from Munich that ZFK may be none other than Forestier. At the very beginning of the war, a naked soldier was picked up on the battlefield in a feverish delirium - he had to be re-taught to eat, drink and speak German. He was given the name Siegfried von Kleist in honor of Germany's greatest hero and most soulful of her poets.
Jean goes to Bavaria with a fake Canadian passport. When he gets off the train, his heart becomes heavy - here, even from the wind and sun, it reeks of Germany. In this country, the eyebrows of the apostles are frowned, and the virgins have knotted hands and saggy breasts. In the eyes dazzled by artificial empty advertising. Equally monstrous and unnatural is the Siegfried Villa - its decrepitude is hidden by the whitewash. The Germans reproach the French for their addiction to blush, and they themselves make up their buildings. A person who has gone out into a dark garden has all the indisputable signs of a German resident - glasses in a fake tortoise-shell frame, a gold tooth, a pointed beard. But Jean immediately recognizes Forestier - what a sad transformation!
Jean settles in a room overlooking the villa. Before meeting a friend, he takes the tram to Munich and wanders the city with a sense of superiority, as befits a winner. Once he was here his man, but the past cannot be returned: only Ida Eulert remained from the old happy days - at one time Jean loved her three sisters. Ida brings news: everyone here fears a conspiracy led by Zelten. Jean believes that there is nothing to be afraid of: Zelten always timed important events to June 2, his birthday, and the plan for this year has already been drawn up - Zelten decided to heal his teeth and start a book about East and West.
An old acquaintance enters the house of Siegfried Jean - Prince Heinrich, the Heir to the Saxe-Altdorf throne was born on the same day with the German emperor and studied with him: the boys always quarreled in English lessons and made peace in French lessons. The prince is far superior to his pathetic cousin in nobility - just compare their wives and children. The ardent and courageous offspring of Prince Henry made up an entire air fleet - now they are all killed or mutilated.
Jean watches from the windows how Siegfried dresses: Forestier always loved white linen, and now he is wearing a purple sweatshirt and pink underpants - the same were under the uniforms of the wounded Prussians. You cannot bear this: you need to kidnap Forestier from the keepers of the Rhine gold - this alloy of German naivety, splendor and meekness. Ida brings a circular from the German headquarters about the training of soldiers who have lost their memory: they were supposed to be given a nurse with a busty blonde with ruddy cheeks - the ideal of German beauty. A woman comes out of the Forestier house, meeting all the parameters of the circular. She has an armful of roses in her hands, and Forestier looks after her like a sleepwalker.
On the recommendation of Prince Heinrich, Jean enters Siegfried as a French teacher. At home, he notices the same depressing changes as in clothes: before Forestier's apartment was filled with delicious trinkets, and now heavy sayings of German sages are hung everywhere. The lesson begins with the simplest phrases, and as parting Siegfried asks to send him samples of French compositions. The first of them Jean gives the title "Solignac" and describes in detail the chapel, cathedral, cemetery, stream, gentle rustle of the poplars of Limousin - the province where both friends were born.
Zelten introduces Jean to Kleist's nurse. However, fifteen years ago, Jean had already seen Eva von Schwangofer in the house of her father, a tearful novelist, a favorite of German housewives. And Zelten tells Eve about his first meeting with Jean: until the age of eighteen he suffered from bone tuberculosis, grew up among the elders and imagined all people decrepit, but at the carnival in Munich he suddenly saw an eighteen-year-old face with snow-white teeth and shining eyes - since that time this the Frenchman became for him the embodiment of youth and joy of life.
After the second lesson, Jean has a dream that he has turned into a German, and Kleist has become a French: darkness and heaviness gather around Jean-German, while the French-Kleist acquires an airy lightness before our eyes. Then Eve appears to Jean, who has made the necessary searches: in vain, Jean hid behind a Canadian passport - in fact, he is a native of Limousin. Eva demands to leave Kleist alone: she will not allow his return to hated France. In response, Jean says that he does not harbor anger towards despicable Germany: the archangels, having given France victory, took away her right to hate. German girls may pray for sons who would take revenge on France, but French students studying German are called to a great mission - to educate the vanquished.
Genevieve Prat, former lover of Forestier, arrives in Munich. The three of them go to Berlin, where Eve overtakes them. The struggle for Kleist continues: Eve tries to arouse hatred of the French with a tendentious selection of newspaper clippings, and Jean in another essay reminds Friend of the greatest Limousin poet Bertrand de Born. At the celebrations in honor of Goethe, Jean recalls Moliere's January jubilee: if the former resemble a dreary seance, the latter was a sparkling celebration of life. The abomination of Berlin disgusts Kleist, and the whole company moves to Sassnitz - it is there that the hospital where the German was made from Forestier. Jean watches Eve and Genevieve: the monumental German beauty cannot bear any comparison with the graceful and natural Frenchwoman. Genevieve has the gift of genuine compassion - she heals people's sorrows with her mere presence. Kleist rushes between the two women, not understanding his melancholy. In fact, he has to choose a country.
Serene relaxation is interrupted by stormy events: a revolution took place in Munich, and Count von Zelten declared himself dictator. Having rented a car, the company travels to Bavaria: they are allowed to pass freely, because citizen ZFK received an invitation to enter the new government. In Munich, it turns out that Zelten seized power on his birthday. Jean, through a misunderstanding, ends up in prison: he is released four days later, when Zelten abdicates the throne. The former dictator publicly announces that Kleist is not German at all. A shocked Siegfried takes refuge in the Schwangofer villa. They read messages from different countries to him, and he tries to guess his unknown homeland. The final blow for him is the death of the fragile Genevieve, who sacrificed her health and life to open his eyes. At night Jean and Siegfried get on the train. Forgotten by his heavy sleep, Kleist mutters something in German, but Jean answers him only in French. Time is running fast - now our native France is waking up outside the windows. Now Jean will slap his friend on the shoulder and show him a photograph from thirty years ago, signed by his real name.