Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld is a noted scholar and author of Portuguese Irregular Verbs - a great hit with philologists. Unfortunately the book has sold only a few copies, and an interior decorator wants to buy out the stock because the binding is impressive and the book will look great on a shelf.
Igelfeld and his friends are totally absorbed in their field, too scholarly to be athletic and extremely jeaolous of any accomplishment of another scholar. For instance, when Igelfeld's best friend, Prinzel, receives an honorary doctorate, Igelfeld is sure it is a case of mistaken identity.
While none of the characters is a great physical specimen, Prinzel appears athletic. Thus Igelfeld thinks he can instruct the group in tennis, which turns out to be a disaster. More disasterous is Igelfeld's urging to Prinzel that he take up dueling. Prinzel loses the tip of his nose, and Igelfeld must acknowledge that he is no athlete.
A trip to Ireland introduces Igelfeld to early Irish pornography. He heads off to Italy and ends up staying in a hotel where prejudice against Germans leads to the most uncomfortable room and worst food he has ever had.
At several conferences, we see the boredom that scholars must experience as people insist on reading long dissertations in fields that are only tangentially related to theirs. However, at a conference in India he is impressed by a paper on Urdu subjunctives.
While in India, Igelfeld is introduced to the mayor of a city who, according to Igelfeld's guide and rickshaw driver, is a murderer. He meets a holy man who warns him of impending disaster.
On his return to Germany, Igelfeld falls in love with his dentist, with heartbreaking results.
The book is a lighthearted spoof on academics, their petty jealousies, their limited world view and their physical shortcomings.
This report prepared by David Gordon