A curious tale, by turns sympathetic and aloof, of the humanization of a German mathematician/aristocrat who seeks contact with his own kind after learning he has a terminal disease, from the quirky imagination of Berlin-based American expatriate Dische (Strange Traffic, 1995, etc.). Benedikt Waller von Wallerstein spent his adult life in the single-minded pursuit of the solitron, a theoretical particle that by definition exists forever on its own, until a lethal illness brings him face to face with his mortality. As the last male in his noble line, he naively decides to advertise for a child to adopt as his heir--and is rewarded by the arrival of a wild, disheveled Russian woman and her son, Valerie, who move right in. Not having a clue about how to deal with them, Benedikt is first angry, then resigned, and, when a dotty pensioner shows up looking for work as a housekeeper, he decides to leave Berlin and take all three to his ancestral castle. There, he renews ties with his bedridden grandmother, who takes an interest in the Russians, going so far as to get out of bed for the first time in 20 years--an act that kills her. Benedikt decides to marry Marja to make his adoption more seemly, the fact that she already has a husband notwithstanding. After a much publicized wedding, however, he takes action to get rid of her, finding Marja to be a disruption in his effort to be fatherly to Valerie. But events overtake those plans, and though he loses his wife and son somewhere in the Swiss Alps, all manage to find their way back to Berlin--in time for Valerie's true father to find them. Eccentric doesn't begin to describe this rich, Germanic- flavored saga, but the twists and tangents that clash in mood and purpose finally make it seem more a collection of ingenious pieces than a finished work.