St. Apollonius-on-the-Ionian, a town in southern Italy, is used by the author as an arena for his views on the sad state of the world. It is contemporary Italy, or nearly so, and the true believers in the town, primarily Catholics but also the Communists and Maoists, are irredeemably bigoted and idiotic. As a foil for these bristling straw men, Fusco sets up Don Orazio Colasanti, a humanist professor filled with disdain for all manner of religious and ideological folly. Two former students of the professor, Paolo, a son of the middle class, and Corrado, a disillusioned ex-Communist born of a washerwoman, return to the town and think their dark thoughts. Unfortunately, the thinking that goes on in this somewhat disjointed work rarely rises above the puerilities of the cafe. The characters exist for their ideas, and their ideas aren't worth a second glance unless the reader is collecting minor examples of the Italians' continuing love-hate relationship with the omnipresent Church.