Bosnian writer Brik lives in Chicago and is being kept by his brain-surgeon wife, Mary. He chafes under his inability to earn a living, and somehow secures a grant to write about Lazarus, a Russian Jew killed in the early 1900s by the Chicago Chief of Police after Lazarus went to visit him and deliver a message. The Lazarus chapters are punctuated by stories from the press at that time, which depict him as a cold blooded anarchist, though he was nothing of the sort. Lazarus’ sister Olga bears the brunt of his death, being interrogated by police and hiding his friend Isador in the latrine. Lazarus survived the Russian pogrom only to be killed in the land of tolerance and freedom. Olga starts and stops several letters to her mother to describe Lazarus’ death.
Brik travels back to Russia and then Bosnia/Serbia, with his old friend Rora the photographer, who ends up killed in a random act of violence for his camera. Along the way Rora entertains with many stories. Brik’s constant doubt about his wife undermines him, he halfheartedly calls her and emails her, you can palpably feel the disintegration of their relationship.