The narrator meets a "beggar" at the Hamburg Main railway station on the way to work as a university instructor. The homeless man is a refugee from Roman Cyrenaica who has shamanic qualities. He makes the outrageous claim that he is the ancient writer Tacitus.
The autobiographical writer is a New Yorker struggling in his "new home" - modern "Germania". The main character considers his role as father to be his most important mission and role in life. He is convinced that his life should already have ended, if it were not for the existence of his two children. He attempts to start a new life in Europe (Hamburg) against all the odds.