Knut Holmen celebrates his fortieth birthday alone in a restaurant. He is prosperous and successful. At work things have been going smoothly, his marriage is well and secure, although a little rigid. He seems to be leading a satisfying life when his mind starts to spin. He comes to the conclusion that despite his obvious good fortune, his life lacks warmth and passion. Somewhere along the way something has been distorted - twisted totally out of proportion. Bit by bit he buries himself under the weight of his own mind, finds himself revisiting the past in hopes of finding an answer.
While writing the novel, Sigurd Hoel himself was going through psychological turmoil. He was undergoing therapy and was very keen on the kind of soul-searching that the main character in the novel had embarked on. The subject matter of the novel can in short be described using an excerpt from the book: “Forgotten fears of forgotten misdeeds drift like shadows over our lives.” It’s about the fear of authorities and the fear of living which is rooted in a childhood home with no love, no comfort.