A pre-war amateur cycling career is cut short by call-up. Trained as a sniper, the man, whose name we never know for sure, embarks for war-torn Europe. Undecided how to resume his life at the war's close, and disturbed by what he has left behind on the Continent, he is compelled to return, dispensing first medical aid, then something quite different. A further attempt to take up his cycling career is thwarted when he is inveigled into playing his minor part in a new – Cold – war. Finally settling for a retreat into peaceful obscurity, he discovers even this is not to be. His story, he learns, has been turned into a novel. without his knowledge or approval. As he now reads, comments on and corrects the novel, he begins to struggle to distance himself from the false heroi, and above all, to reclaim his own death.