The girl listens in amazement as the cryptic novelist reads a chapter of his latest novel. When he finishes, everyone applauds. She manages to maneuver herself into a strategic position and, as the novelist leaves the room, chatting with this one and that, shaking the occasional hand, she approaches him. She tells him she’s very interested in his work and, if possible, she’d like to get to know him in depth. The girl is pretty and the novelist likes pretty girls. When he looks at her, she meets his gaze and smiles. The novelist agrees. He brushes off the organizers and they go to a restaurant for dinner.
It’s a no-frills restaurant because, even though he’s a very good novelist (or precisely because he is), he doesn’t do well enough financially to afford expensive restaurants. This doesn’t matter at all to her. She’s fallen (she realizes it as she looks into his eyes) totally and completely in love. He talks and talks without stopping, and she likes what he says. She laughs a lot and they leave the restaurant with their arms around each other. They go to his place, on a top floor with no elevator (she waxes enthusiastically, “Just like in the movies!”) where they spend the night. They see each other again the following day.
They end up living together. Four months later, she gets pregnant. They have a boy. The apartment becomes not only too small, but much too uncomfortable for rearing a child. One evening the cryptic novelist makes a decision; one way or another, he has to bring in more money. Cryptic novels hardly make a penny. And what they earn between the two of them from his chess columns for the newspaper and her work as a clerk in a cosmetics shop is peanuts.
Fortunately, a friend of his (who published a couple of books of poetry some years before and now produces TV commercials) finds him a job in an advertising agency. He starts off as a copywriter. He’s never been short of wit and he certainly knows how to write. So much so that the managers soon realize his worth. Things start to improve, both economically and professionally.
Finally they can move. She gets pregnant again. Occasionally he recalls the days when he wrote cryptic novels. Those days grow more and more distant. It’s a closed chapter, and at times it even seems impossible that he had ever devoted himself to cryptic novels. He wouldn’t go back to it for anything in the world. Literature seems like something moth-eaten to him now, an art of centuries past. The future, the present, is not in books, which no one reads anymore, but in newspapers, television, the radio. And advertising is the highest art in this arena, because it prostitutes itself consciously. And so it is that three years later he has his own agency. He comes home every day totally worn out, with just enough time to give his two daughters a kiss before he stretches out on the sofa with a loud sigh and tells his wife at machine-gun speed the thousand events of the day.
The woman looks at him pityingly. She knows he doesn’t miss the days in which he wrote cryptic novels. She knows that he struggles each day from sunrise to sunset for the good of their household, and that he does it gladly, and that, what’s more, he’s been successful at it, and this makes him happy. Most likely he would not understand her pitying him, but she does. And so when he goes to bed and falls right to sleep, she leaves her light on, reading a novel. It’s an intricate novel (the new rage—cryptic novels are no longer in fashion) that came out just two weeks before and in those two weeks has become a success, a tremendous success in what’s left of the world of literature. She finds it exhilarating, so much so that she has no intention of missing the reading the novelist will be giving the following afternoon at a prestigious cultural center in the city.