He was a rather sottish senior master in his fifties, with a wife who had spread out a bit too much and with whom he had breakfast every morning. This autumn day, too, a Monday in October, not yet knowing as he sat at the breakfast table with a light headache that it would be the decisive day in his life.
From the outside, Elias Rukla seems to be satisfied with his life, his teaching, his marriage. But one day he has a revelation--a disturbing shock of recognition with one of Ibsen's characters in The Wild Duck. He anxiously examines the role of this seemingly unnecessary character to a classroom of bored and distracted students. Trying to open a stuck umbrella after class, he explodes with anger, and his life, as well as his career, are irrevocably changed. "It had happened to him, and for him it meant that he had fallen out. Fallen out of society, quite simply." As Elias leaves the scene of his rage, he relives his carefully charted life and earlier passions that led him to such a moment of high drama.
Solstad, praised in Norway as one of the most innovative novelists of his generation, offers an intricate and richly drawn portrait of a man lost in a world that, he feels, can no longer recognize him.