The story is an odyssey of a little man through Poland of 1930 to 1950. It shows his attempts to cope with a changing world which seems to have no place for him. He has no consciousness of any kind but is always on the verge of turning into a more coherent human being, only to be slapped down. It begins with the hero's childhood. Then comes the first love marred by his unwilling involvement in fascict politics, him being taken for a Jew because of his nose. Later he decides to join the army to charm the girl, but arrives too late for any fighting. He is arrested by entering German troops while he dresses in officer's uniform and mistakenly sent to POW camp as an officer.