Art critic Sebastian Zöllner knows what he wants. He wants money, of course, as well as professional success and some measure of renown. Above all, however, he wants to show up his rival Hans Bahring, with whom he has entered into a fierce, if entirely one-sided, competition. Zöllner also knows what he needs in order to achieve these goals: Kaminski.
Manuel Kaminski is a painter who lived in Paris, studied with Matisse and knew Picasso. Now his sight has failed and his work is out of fashion, but he still has one important thing to offer: he is likely to die soon. When he does, Zöllner intends to have a book ready. Zöllner once landed a story by intruding on a grieving widow and refusing to leave; he is sure the trick will work again on a half-blind artist who has spent years in seclusion.