A physics teacher– a partisan fighter during the Second World War in the Balkans– has not been heard of, for forty years. His disappearance is intriguing. Because he was quite ubiquitous, both in the mountains and later on in academia. He was given to making incomprehensible pronouncements combining physics and philosophy, and sometimes lose focus during lectures. Did his intensity and the sporadic displays of madness stem from a deeply suppressed anguish and torment about the killing of his mother and his girlfriend by fascists during WWII? Or, was it his complicated mission to explain pure physics and the mechanics of the human condition? He was reportedly heard of as teaching in the US during the Cold War period, and as well back in Europe. Where did he disappear to?
His former student Ben, has been looking for him for all these years. When he finally finds him– in the very city he had grown up in–it is a sad and traumatic finale. In the background– four generations of a Balkan family — from a grandfather who is a vicious and murderous government bureaucrat and admirer of Mussolini, to a father who is an enigmatic doctor and partisan leader and a mother who once taught Electro-Magnetism in a Polytechnique. And then there is Ben, who is now a lawyer in Zurich, with his wife Anahita and teenage son. Accompanying this story is the appearance and disappearance of a Remington double barrel gun—which has been instrumental in annulling or resolving several conflicts.
Ben is the first narrator, followed by Shaf himself who is the second. The novel is set in a fictitious town in an unnamed country in the Balkans. It starts right around the time of the first great War and its very peculiar onset. It then travels through the final collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the rise of Nazism and Fascism, the Partisan resistance with its enormous promise of a just society, followed by the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, the Cold War period and culminates in the late-eighties, as both Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union are about to dissolve.