'Look at the harlequins . . . Play! Invent the world! Invent reality.' This is the childhood advice given by an aunt to Russian born writer Vadim Vadimovich, who emigrates to England, then Paris, then Germany and then the US, and, now dying, reconstructs his past. He remembers Iris, his first wife, Annette his long-necked typist and Bel his daughter, as well as his own bizarre 'numerical nimbus syndrome'.