Ravik met her on a late November evening on the Alma Bridge. He thought the woman was going to kill herself - her face was so pale. Ravik was very tired after the day's work, but he could not leave the woman. He took her to a little cellar near the Arc de Triomphe, gave her a Calvados (apple brandy) and waited till she calmed down. Her appearance did not attract Ravic. The woman had a pale, wan face and full, but colorless lips. The only thing Ravic liked was her naturally golden hair.
After drinking Calvados, they left the cafe. Ravic was bored, but again he could not let the poor woman go alone in the rain and fog. They crossed the Place Etoile in front of the Arc de Triomphe, turned into an alley, and arrived at the Hotel International, where Ravic lived. There was no free room in the hotel, so he had to take the woman to his room. He did not have time to go to bed because he had been called to work.
Ravic was a talented surgeon. A few years ago he managed to escape from a Nazi concentration camp in Paris. Since then, he had been operating illegally at Dr. Weber's clinic. That evening a patient-a girl after a botched abortion-died on the operating table. Ravik took such failures hard. He came home tired and shattered, hoping that the woman had already left, but apparently she had nowhere to go. On the way home, Ravic had a drink, and for him "everything suddenly became simple - the morning, the woman." He called her to bed, and she said yes.
Afterwards he fell asleep and woke up to find the woman still around. She told him that she lived nearby, at the Hotel Verdun. The man she had come to Paris with had died suddenly, and the woman was in a panic. Ravic escorted her to the hotel, called Dr. Weber, who helped arrange the formalities with the police, and rescued her belongings from the greedy clutches of the hotelier. Then he helped her get a room at the Milan Hotel. There she wrote her name, Joan Madou, on a piece of notepaper. He tore it up as soon as he left the hotel.
Time passed. Ravic still operated at the clinic and lived at the Internationale, whose landlady did not require documents from refugees. He could not rent an apartment - that requires a passport, which Ravik did not have. The first time he went to the police, he could go to jail for a few weeks, the second time for six months. He had been through this vicious circle more than once and had learned a lot. He didn't want to have anything or be attached to anything. All Ravik needed was a job. The "leading" surgeon of the clinic was the old and untalented Professor Durand. He would put a patient to sleep, and then Ravic would come in and perform an operation that the professor couldn't do. Durand made a name for himself by paying Ravic a paltry share of his fees. Ravic didn't mind - he couldn't not operate. In addition to "assisting" the professor, Ravic had to examine every Thursday girls from the Osiris brothel, whose services he often used.
Ravik's only friend was Boris Morozov, a Russian émigré who worked as a doorman in the Russian nightclub "Scheherazade. They often met in the canteen of the International, which the guests called "the catacomb. The room was in the basement of the hotel and had access to the courtyard, which was used during police raids. Ravic and Boris were sitting in a corner of the "catacomb," under a stunted palm tree in a tub, playing chess, when the doctor received a package from an unknown lady, containing a small wooden Madonna. Ravic remembered seeing such a figurine in Joan Madou's room. Morozov thought of the statue as a "cry for help" because the woman was all alone in a strange city. He persuaded Ravic to visit her.
Ravic found Joan severely depressed. He spent the evening with her, still having no interest in the woman. Joan turned out to be an actress, and Ravic gave her Morozov's address - he could get her a job at Scheherazade. Having done this, Ravic was relieved - "the faint sense of responsibility that he still felt disappeared. The woman did not want to be alone, and Ravic spent the night in her room on a narrow and rickety chaise.
Ravic noticed the man a few days later, as he sat in a bistro on rue Boissiere. A man flashed through the rain-soaked glass, and Ravic rushed after him, but failed to catch up. He remembered Berlin in 1934, a windowless room in the Gestapo, the pain of torture, the "desperate face of Sibylla" held by the executioners, and another face - a well-fed, smiling face. Ravic remembered the man's voice explaining to Sybilla what would happen to her. The girl hanged herself in the concentration camp three days later. The man's name was Haake, and it was the man Ravik saw behind the wet glass. After talking to Morozov, Ravík decided he was mistaken.
The next evening, Ravic came to Scheherazade with Kat Hegström, a Swedish-American, his first Parisian patient - two years ago he had removed her appendix. Since then, Ravic had been doing well, and he considered Kat his mascot. She returned to Paris to have an abortion and asked Ravic to entertain her for a while.
In "Scheherazade," Joan sang. In her "there was no trace of the colorless, erased expression familiar to Ravic." Now the woman's face "was illuminated with a kind of stirring, perilous beauty. Ravic spent the evening listening to Kat make plans for the future. She couldn't have a baby now because of a hemorrhage, but she wanted children. The next day, while undergoing surgery, Ravic discovered Kat had inoperable cancer.
Trying to come to terms with it, Ravick recalled "one of the greatest lessons of his life" he had received on the front lines of World War I near Ypres. Three of his friends had been killed in a surprise artillery raid, but Ravik himself had miraculously survived and learned: help while you can, but if you can't do anything, forget it and get on with your life. That was the only way to survive.
In the evening he went to "Scheherazade" and met Joan. Now Ravic was fascinated by her "bright, mysterious face. Their romance began beneath the silver glittering Arc de Triomphe.
Joan plunged headlong into her love, "she gave herself wholeheartedly to what she was doing at the moment. Ravic, on the other hand, was aloof; he was afraid to get attached to anyone, his life was very unstable. But the further their relationship went, the more he fell in love with Joan and felt that he was losing his independence. He was fifteen years older than her, and he felt that sooner or later she would leave him. Morozov disliked Joan, thought she was a bitch, and she felt it.
Soon, sitting with Morozov at a table in front of the Fouquet restaurant, Ravic saw a man who looked like Haake again, and lost him again in the crowd at the Place Etoile. Morozov tried to reassure Ravic. He advised his friend to draw up a plan of revenge and to follow it strictly. So did Morozov himself, who dreamed of meeting the men who had destroyed his family during the Russian Revolution. Ravic sat for a long time in front of the restaurant, looking out for Haake and remembering Sibylla. She was "a spoiled beautiful creature, accustomed to a dissipated, easy life. They were caught trying to leave Germany and tortured for three days. Haake demanded a confession from Ravic, but Ravic had nothing to confess. After the Gestapo, he was sent to a concentration camp, then to a hospital, from which he escaped. Now his dreams were full of "the horror of Nazi cells, the frozen faces of tortured friends. Having never seen Haake, Ravic decided not to dig "into the slag of the dead years, brought to life by a ridiculous, cursed resemblance," and not to sacrifice Joan's love to an accidental illusion.
After a while she talked to him about her own house. Joan did not know that Ravic was illegal. He informed Joan that he could be arrested at any minute. To reassure the frightened woman, Ravic suggested that she go on a little vacation to the south of France, to the Mediterranean Sea. Ravic obtained two thousand francs for the vacation from Professor Durand by threatening to leave the clinic when the patient was already lying on the operating table. The patient turned out to be "a certain Leval, who was in charge of emigrants," a man who was indifferent to the fate of refugees. As he operated, Ravic thought he was holding Laval's life in his hands, just as he was holding the lives of thousands of illegal immigrants. Before he left, Ravic met with Kat. She was leaving for Italy without knowing that she was terminally ill - the doctor had never been able to tell her that.
They had been in Antibes for eight days, and it seemed to Ravic that he had only spent eight hours in that sun-drenched world. To extend his vacation, Ravic sometimes won a small sum of money at the casino. Joan enjoyed this life, and Ravic felt that sooner or later she would find a man who could provide for her. Not wanting to be abandoned, Ravic decided to be the first to break up with Joan upon his arrival in Paris.
He did not make it in time. About a week after his return, on his way to the clinic, Ravic saw the scaffolding outside a building under construction collapse. Some woman was badly injured, and the doctor couldn't stay away. As Ravik was assisting, the police arrived. It quickly became clear that the doctor had no documents. Ravik managed to tell Dr. Weber, Morozov, and Joan that he had been caught. Weber tried to help Ravic through Professor Durand, to whom Laval was very grateful for the successful operation. Durand, however, could not forgive two thousand francs, and only made Ravic's situation worse. He served two weeks in prison and then was expelled from France.
He returned to Paris three months later. During this time, Germany occupied Czechoslovakia, and he himself suffered pneumonia and was twice caught by the police. He kept the name Ravic - he liked it better than the others. In "International" about his troubles did not know: Morozov told everyone that the doctor had gone to Rouen. He also told Ravic that Joan was no longer working at Scheherazade. She had stopped asking about Ravic about five weeks ago. Morozov had heard from his ear that Joan was making movies.
After suffering all evening, Ravic went to the Hotel Milan, but Joan no longer lived there. He realized it was over and called Weber - he needed a job he loved to calm down and forget. Ravic met Joan two weeks later at Cloche d'Or. She was with two unfamiliar men, and her shoulders had time to get a southern tan. They quarreled. Joan blamed Ravic for not thinking to track her down, and he looked at her southern tan. She came to him at night, and he didn't have the strength to kick her out. Joanne fell asleep snuggled up against Ravic.
In the morning, Joanne left and did not appear for several days, and Ravic waited longingly for her call. He continued to work at the clinic, operating, and it made his life easier. Ravic still examined the girls at Osiris, where, despite the "dead" season, there was a rush.
Joan called the clinic and invited Ravic to her place. Now she wasn't living in a cheap hotel. Joan's new friend, an actor, was renting a tastelessly furnished apartment for her. Finally Ravic realized that Joan was giving him the role of a visiting lover. This did not suit him; Ravic, a pleasant man with a narrow face and shrewd, deep-set eyes, was in his forties, and he wanted either everything or nothing. After a long, hard conversation, he left. After spending one more night with her, Ravic realized that he would be lost if he did it again.
Soon Kat Häggström returned from Italy. She already knew she was dying, and she was going to "take what she could from life." Ravic offered to help her. He tried to distract himself with work or long walks, but he could not forget Joan - she was in his blood. One day his feet brought him to his beloved's house. He stared at her windows for a long time, feeling an unbearable, sharp pain, as if someone was tearing at his heart. Suddenly it began to rain. Standing in the rain, Ravic suddenly felt a pulse of life. It was as if the shell that bound his soul had burst, and life, "welcome and blessed," burst forth. Without looking back, he walked away.
Some time later, sitting in a Fouquet restaurant, Ravic saw Haake again. This time the doctor was not going to let him go, but he did not have to rush after him - Haake approached him himself, mistaking him for a fellow countryman. Miraculously preserving his composure, Ravic called himself von Horn and volunteered to show Haake the hot spots of Paris. Much to Ravic's dismay, his enemy was in a hurry to catch a train to Berlin. However, he promised to contact "von Horn" in two weeks, when he arrived in France again.
For these two weeks Ravic had been preparing for his revenge. He was not bothered about Joan, but she still would not leave him alone, she came to his house, making jealous scenes. Ravic did not give up, knowing that if he won, Joan would leave him as an unwanted thing. One night she called him for help. Deciding that Joan was in trouble, Ravic packed a doctor's suitcase and went to her, but the alarm proved false. Another actor lover scandalized her, threatened to kill her, and she became frightened and called Ravic. Joan admitted that she was in too much of a hurry to live, changing lovers, friends, and can not stop. Ravic realized that he had lost her forever, and he felt at ease: now no one would stop him from getting revenge.
In the morning he moved to the Prince of Wales Hotel, the address he had given to Haake. Ravic understood that his enemy, "a small official in the department of fear, means little in himself, and yet to kill him was infinitely important. It seemed to Ravic that Haake might call during the operation. The thought made him so nervous that he had to give up his work for the time being.
With Morozov's help, Ravic hired a car and made a plan, but Haake still did not call. In the end, Ravic despaired: the Nazi might not come or might have forgotten the address. He saw the enemy one evening, turning casually into the Osiris, and he ambushed him at the entrance - no one was supposed to see that they had left together. Haake was glad to see him. He didn't call because he mixed up the name of the hotel. Ravic promised Haake a tour of the cheap but posh brothels, took him to the Bois de Boulogne, stunned him with a blow to the head, and strangled him. He buried the body and his clothes in various places in the Saint-Germain forest, and burned his documents. Haake did not even understand why he had been killed, and this tormented Ravic for some time, but then he calmed down and was unusually relieved. "The door to his past, shut tight, covered with caked blood, suddenly opened, easily and silently, and behind it there was a blooming garden again, not a Gestapo prison. Something was melting inside Ravic, filling him with life.
Morozov urged Ravic to leave Paris, but he refused - he had nowhere else to go. He knew that after the declaration of war he would be imprisoned in a French concentration camp, and he was ready for that. Soon he accompanied Kat Hägström to Cherbourg: she was leaving on a huge white steamer for the United States to die. Back in Paris, Ravic found the city darkened. Only the Place des Etoiles with the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées behind it were illuminated.
That same night Ravic received another call from Joan asking him to come. This time he did not believe her and stayed at the International. Soon Joan's frightened lover knocked on his door. He had shot her, severely wounded her, and now did not know how to save her. Ravic rushed to her and took her to the Weber Clinic. As he began surgery, he saw that the bullet was lodged in her cervical spine and that there was no way to save Joan. With impotent pain, Ravic watched as paralysis engulfed the body he loved so much. When Joan began to suffocate, he administered the medicine that relieved her death-she had asked him for it when she could still speak.
The moment Joan died, World War II broke out. When Ravic returned to the International, the police were already waiting for him on a denunciation from one of the clinic's nurses. This time he gave his real name, Ludwig Fresenburg. He left Paris in total darkness, not even the Arc de Triomphe in sight.