Casey (Genealogy, 2006, etc.) fictionalizes a story based on the real-life figure of Albert Dadas, a man from the late 19th century whose strange pathology dictated to him that he walk continually, though he temporarily ends up in an asylum—and eventually walks away from that as well.
Although Dadas is at the center of the narrative, we’re also introduced to the Doctor (unnamed but always capitalized) who works at the asylum and who develops his own obsession with Dadas. Along the way, we meet some of the other patients being treated, including the veteran, suffering from a type of PTSD, and Elizabeth, who believes that even the most mundane phenomenon is a “divine miracle.” But the most enigmatic figure of all is Dadas himself, who’s led to the asylum by a lamplighter. Dadas has been all over Europe, though his memories of these travels are both fleeting and fragmented. The Doctor tries to help him recover his memories with various strategies, the main one being empathetic listening. The key questions the Doctor wishes to ask are “Why do you walk? Why can’t you stop?” but the answers to these questions are only hinted at rather than directly confronted. While Dadas vaguely recalls having deserted the army with his friend Baptiste and also alludes to a difficult and problematic relationship with his father, his story ultimately remains cryptic and inexplicable.
Lyrical in its style and fascinating in its psychology, Casey’s narrative provokes a host of intriguing questions beyond those the Doctor raises, and Casey is wise enough as an author not to provide easy answers.