Involuntary self-murder is a symptom of what Mathew Maddox, emeritus professor of the Drayburgh School of Fine Art, considers to be a cultural as well as a social malaise. His children gone, his wife re-married, his attempt at suicide having failed, he is drawn remorselessly through a process of rehabilitation, a search for 'purpose' which will oblige him to re-assess the dynamism of a century he assumes has failed. Even a man divided from himself is not alone. Struggling for his future are Simone, his lover and former analyst; his revered mentor, Daniel Viklund; his brother Paul and reliable sister Sarah. But against him stands his past; and above all, Eric Taylor, once his brightest student and now a convicted murderer.