The first part, 'A Summer in Rouen', concerns Kudo, a Japanese student invited to France in the 1950s.
It is a lucent snapshot of a young man who feels adrift in a Western country.
The second part, 'Araki Thomas', sees Endo on familiar territoryas he tells of an apostate Japanese Catholic who has visited seventeenth-century Rome. 'And You, Too', the third part, is the story of Tanaka, a Japanese scholar of French literature who visits France in the 1960s to research the life and work of the Marquis de Sade.
We soon come to see that Tanaka's quest is not simply a literary one, but spiritual and cultural too.