Study Guide

Giovanni's Room

Giovanni's Room Summary

Part 1

David is drinking alone, watching night fall from the window of his house in the south of France. He remembers the events of his life that have gotten him to this sad point. In Paris, he proposed to a girl named Hella, but at the same time he had an affair with a man named Giovanni. Now Hella is on a boat back to America, and Giovanni is going to the guillotine.

David remembers when he was a young man in Brooklyn and had his first romantic experience with another man. His name was Joey. David was ashamed afterwards and, now, looking back, he thinks that he has been running from that experience his entire life. (Now we jump into a flashback and learn about David's past.) David's mother dies when he is five. He grows up with his father and his aunt Ellen. Ellen is an overbearing presence in the house, whereas his father, though an alcoholic, just wants to be friends with David. Yet, as David grows more similar to his father, the two of them grow apart.

When David leaves Brooklyn and moves to Paris, he's very poor. He calls up an acquaintance, Jacques, in order to ask for money. Jacques is a lonely gay man who has to buy friends. The two of them go out to a gay bar owned by a man named Guillaume. As soon as they walk in, Jacques notices the new bartender, Giovanni, and he tries to flirt with him. Yet when Guillaume comes over to talk with Jacques, David and Giovanni end up chatting and buying each other drinks.

Giovanni is Italian and very clever. It's immediately clear that he likes David. They discuss the differences between America and Paris and the way that different cultures view time. When Giovanni goes to help another customer, a flamboyantly gay man approaches David and begins teasing him. When David tells him to get lost, he becomes serious. He tells David that Giovanni is very dangerous and he predicts that the two of them will be unhappy.

When Jacques returns to the bar, he points out that everyone has noticed how well David and Giovanni get along. David resents Jacques's nosiness, and wants to leave and go pick up a girl. But instead, he decides to get drunk. He realizes that it doesn't matter whether or not he leaves because something has already happened. Reflecting back on this experience from his house in the south of France, David thinks that he will never be able to get the image of Giovanni out of his mind.

At five in the morning, Guillaume, Jacques, Giovanni, and David decide to take a taxi to Les Halles to get drinks. David is uncomfortable on the ride there and resolves to explain the misunderstanding to Giovanni as soon as they are alone.

Giovanni takes them to a small café where he seems to know everyone. A large domineering woman named Madame Clothilde is working the counter, and she is instantly charmed when she sees David. In a moment alone, Jacques counsels David to appreciate what he has found and not to be ashamed – to love Giovanni with all his heart.

Giovanni and David go to eat oysters together in the dining room while Jacques and Guillaume flirt with young boys. Giovanni tells David the story of how he came to work for and be dependent on Guillaume. He makes it clear that he hates and pities the man. David and Giovanni leave together, and at Giovanni's insistence, David goes Giovanni's apartment. Inside, Giovanni quickly embraces him and pushes him to the bed. David wants to resist, but finds that he can't and that, in reality, he is enormously relieved.

Back in present in the south of France, the caretaker comes to do the inventory before David moves out. She is concerned because she has noticed that David has remained in the house for several days. As she examines the rooms, she inquires after Hella. From David's answers, she gathers that Hella has left him and encourages him to find another girl to marry and to begin praying. David is touched, but is embarrassed by how naked he feels before the woman. When she goes to leave, he wonders why it is that he wants to be forgiven by her.

David makes the last preparations before leaving and remembers the room that he and Giovanni had, which Giovanni planned to remodel. He thinks that the last thing Giovanni will see before he dies is the low grey sky of Paris, the same sky beneath which they used to wander on so many desperate and drunken mornings.

Part 2

(Back to flashback.) David moves into Giovanni's room, and the two of them lead a blissful and leisurely life together. Yet, just below the surface, it is apparent that they are both anguished and afraid and know that things are spiraling toward tragedy.

Once David finally tells Giovanni about his girlfriend Hella, Giovanni begins to pry. They become irritated with one another, and David knows that part of him is resisting Giovanni with all his heart. Perhaps he is only afraid of the moment when they will separate, but his love is twinned with hatred that he can't control.

Living in Giovanni's room, which Giovanni constantly talks about renovating, David begins to have a sense of Giovanni's inner despair. For his own part, he knows that sooner or later Hella will return (she's been in Spain) and he and Giovanni will separate.

One day, David gets two letters – one from his father and one from Hella. His father asks him to come home and wants to know what is keeping him so long. Hella announces that she will be back from Spain in a few weeks and that her answer to David's proposal of marriage is yes. David sits there and begins to feel very afraid.

He goes down looking for girls in Montparnasse. He finds a girl named Sue, who he propositions. They go back to her apartment and have sex, and Sue tries to be friendly afterwards, but David brushes her off. He can tell that she is terribly lonely and in need of love, and he feels that what he did with her was immoral. When she opens the door, the two of them pass out into the night and go their separate ways.

When David returns home, he finds Giovanni in despair. Guillaume made a horrible scene at work. Out of jealousy and spite, he accused Giovanni of being a bastard and a thief. Giovanni attacked him and was thrown out. Telling the story, Giovanni says that, if it weren't for David, he would have no reason to keep living. David consoles him, but feels an incredible burden.

In the present, David imagines all of the details of the eve of Giovanni's execution. He admits to himself that he loved Giovanni more than he would ever love anyone again, and hopes that Giovanni has someone to make love to before he is killed.

(Back to the flashback.) Giovanni begins to do renovations on his room, trying to create a sunken bookcase by carving one into the wall. He becomes suspicious that David will leave him, and nags him about it. David says that he wants to get out of Paris, and Giovanni agrees to go with him wherever he wants. Knowing all the while that Hella will return, David can't bring himself to break with Giovanni. Thinking back, he realizes that he and Giovanni were like murderers, each complicit in the murder of the other.

When Hella arrives in Paris, David leaves to greet her without telling Giovanni. She has made up her mind to marry David. The two of them joke and flirt together for days.

Three days later, David and Hella run into Jacques and Giovanni in a bookshop. Giovanni has been looking for David desperately. He is furious with him for leaving. David and Jacques do their best to avoid a scene.

Back in the hotel room, Hella asks about Giovanni. David lies, saying they are just roommates and that the reason Giovanni is upset is because he lost his mistress and his job. They discuss Giovanni's passionate nature and his worship of David, and David says that he and Hella need to leave Paris because he feels like Giovanni is suffocating him.

The next evening, David goes to see Giovanni. He finds him in tears. Giovanni is furious with David. He accuses him of never having loved anyone and of being cruel. Giovanni tells David his story. He used to be married in a little village in Italy. Yet when his wife delivered a stillborn child, he gave up his family and his faith and left. David tries to comfort Giovanni with no success, and they part bitterly.

As David and Hella make wedding plans, Giovanni begins to be seen around town with Jacques. Soon after, Giovanni and Jacques break up and Giovanni is seen hanging out with poor street-boys. David tracks down Yves for news of Giovanni.

Yves tells him that Giovanni is going to get his job back at Guillaume's. A week later, Guillaume is found dead above his bar, strangled with the sash of his dressing gown.

The murder causes an enormous scandal in the city. The papers paint Guillaume as part of the line of a proud French family and Giovanni as an ungrateful Italian gangster. When Giovanni is found, he still has Guillaume's money on him. He pleads guilty and is sentenced to death.

David is in a state of despair. Hella understands that he is sad for his friend, but does not know the sources or understand the depths of his guilt. The two of them go to a house in the South, but they are distant and David can no longer take pleasure in his fiancé. Jacques sends him updates on Giovanni, and he knows that there is nothing either of them can do.

Hella finally begs for David to tell her what is wrong. She knows it has to do with Giovanni, but can't understand where her fiancé had gone. David tries to console her with no success. Soon after, he goes looking for a sailor to sleep with and Hella follows him. When she finds the two of them drinking together in a bar, she announces that she is going home to America.

Hella is angry with herself for not admitting what she knew earlier. She tries to be gentle with David as she packs, but is furious and distraught. When her taxi leaves, David waves but Hella doesn't wave back.

(Back to the present.) The book closes with David alone in the house, about to leave on a bus for Paris. Jacques has sent him a blue envelope containing the date of Giovanni's execution. David doesn't open it. As he gets dressed, he imagines in minute detail Giovanni being removed from his cell and dragged down to the guillotine. He looks at his own naked body and thinks that he does not understand it.

David leaves the house. As he walks to the bus stop, he tears up Jacques's envelope and throws it into the wind. Yet, the wind blows the pieces against his back.

  • Part 1, Chapter 1

    • David, an American, is standing at the window of his house in the south of France. He drinks and watches night fall.
    • He thinks that he may be drunk in the morning, but he will take the train to Paris. He imagines the gloomy ride through the countryside, and thinks that everything will be the same as before, "only I will be stiller" (1.1.2).
    • David and his girl, Hella, rented the house in the south of France a few months ago. She is now on a boat back to America.
    • He remembers meeting her at a bar on St. Germain des Pres (a popular street in Paris), and they became involved. David asked her to marry him before she went away to Spain. He was already entangled with Giovanni at the time, and she took it as a joke anyway, though she began to think seriously about the proposal after going to Spain.
    • David told Hella that he loved her just before she left, and now he wonders if he actually meant it. He thinks his feelings were largely a result of the wonderful nights they would spend together in bed, and the sense that the world had no hold on either of them.
    • He thinks the last fact is the reason they were destined for tragedy, "for nothing is more unbearable, once one has it, than freedom" (1.1.4).
    • While in Spain, Hella decided that she wanted to marry him. He realized, though, that one can't choose one's loves and that he was not a man to be trusted.
    • David looks back on the time when life was nothing but a series of zestful love affairs, and he laments the fact that things will never be that way again.
    • He thinks, "People are too various to be treated so lightly. I am too various to be trusted" (1.1.5).
    • If this were not true, then Hella would not be sailing back to America, and perhaps it would not be the eve of his friend Giovanni's execution by guillotine.
    • David says, "I repent now – for all the good it does – one particular lie among the many lies I've told, told, lived, and believed" (1.1.6).
    • The big lie that David told Giovanni was that he had never slept with a man before. The truth was he had, and in a way he finds it fantastic that he has been running from this fact for so long only to face it once again.
    • Note for reader: In the book, this is an extended flashback, narrated in past tense. Here we render it in the present tense.
    • David meets Joey when he is in his teens, and for a while they are best friends.
    • During summer vacation, David goes to stay at Joey's house in Brooklyn for a few days. The two of them go to the beach together and whistle at the girls, though in truth they are terrified of having the girls acknowledge them.
    • David thinks that the tension between them begins in the shower when they are stinging each other with their towels.
    • Later, they go to the movies and wander the hot Brooklyn streets together. Joey is making wisecracks, and David feels very fond of him.
    • When they get back, the two of them undress and go to bed. David falls asleep for a while, but Joey wakes him up because Joey thinks that a bedbug has bitten him.
    • David teases him and grabs his hand playfully, but then something changes between the two of them and David can feel his heart thumping loudly in his chest.
    • They kiss and begin to make love.
    • At his house in the south of France, David remembers how tender and terrified he felt, and says that "It was like holding in my hand some rare, exhausted, nearly doomed bird which I had miraculously happened to find" (1.1.18).
    • When he wakes up the next morning, he sits on the bed and admires Joey's naked body and thinks about touching him.
    • Then something changes, and David begins to see how much smaller Joey is than him, and above all, he realizes that Joey is a boy.
    • David begins to feel ashamed. He thinks of what other people will say, what Joey's parents will do if they find them, what his father will think.
    • He says, "A cavern opened in my mind, black, full of rumor, suggestion, of half-heard, half-forgotten, half-understood stories, full of dirty words" (1.1.19).
    • David showers, makes breakfast, and leaves. Part of him wishes that Joey will protest, but he doesn't. David avoids Joey for the rest of the summer, and when they see each other at school he makes up a lie about a girl that he's begun dating.
    • Later, David begins to hang out with an older crowd that is very mean to Joey. He says, "The sadder it made him, the nastier I became" (1.1.20).
    • Joey moves away not long after, and David thinks that his experience with Joey is what began his flight, the same flight that has now brought him to this darkening window in the south of France.
    • In truth, though, there is no knowing what began his flight from himself. As he says, "when one begins the search for the crucial, the definitive moment, the moment which changed all others, one finds oneself pressing, in great pain, through a maze of false signals and abruptly locking doors" (1.1.22).
    • David remembers that his mother died when he was young.
    • His family lived in San Francisco, and then Seattle, and then Manhattan. Later, they moved to Brooklyn, and that is when David set out on his own. When he came to France, his father and his new wife had moved out to Connecticut.
    • Note to reader: Back to extended flashback.
    • His mother dies when he is five, which leaves only himself, his father, and his unmarried aunt.
    • When David is little, he has nightmares about his mother's corpse. He is always ashamed to tell his aunt about them, though, because he thinks it would be disrespectful to his mother.
    • His aunt assumes he is grieving. He says, "And I may have been, but if that is so, then I am grieving still" (1.1.24).
    • David's aunt and father fight constantly, and he thinks that it is because his mother's presence still inhabits their old house.
    • He remembers finding his father reading the paper. David desperately tries to get attention, which is often so difficult that he begins to cry.
    • His father is a very calm man, slow to anger, but when he does become angry it is powerful and violent.
    • David's aunt is named Ellen. She constantly knits and reads, and occasionally she plays cards with his father.
    • The best times are when they have cocktail parties. His father is very sociable, and walks around pouring everyone drinks, treating the men like his brothers, and flirting with the women.
    • Ellen, by contrast, is stiff and tense. David remembers watching her flirt with the men and thinking that she could squeeze her cocktail glass so tight that it would break into shards. He is terrified of her.
    • There is a picture of David's mother that is constantly looking over the room. His father rarely speaks of her, but Ellen speaks of her often and praises her.
    • Her praise makes David feel "that I had no right to be the son of such a mother" (1.1.27).
    • Later, when David's father is about to remarry, David tries to get him to speak of his mother. He does, but he simply praises her the way that Ellen does.
    • David remembers a fight between Ellen and his father when he was thirteen.
    • Note to reader: We're still in flashback mode here.
    • David is in bed and his father comes home drunk. He remembers for the first time thinking, "there was something in it, in him, to be despised" (1.1.30).
    • Ellen scolds his father for coming home drunk and for being out with women. She tells him that David is growing up and that he has to think of the effect he is having on his son.
    • His father becomes angry, and refuses to argue about his private life with Ellen.
    • For his part, David feels as if Ellen is disrespecting him, that whatever happens between him and his father is their business.
    • The truth is that he has never thought about his father's women, "But from that evening, I thought about them all the time. I could scarcely ever face a woman without wondering whether or not my father had, in Ellen's phrase, been 'interfering' with her" (1.1.44).
    • As he walks up the stairs, David's father says to Ellen that all he wants is for David to grow up to be a man.
    • Ellen retorts that a man "is not the same thing as a bull" (1.1.48).
    • David remembers that from that night on he hated both his father and Ellen, and ironically this hatred allowed all of Ellen's prophecies to come true.
    • She had predicted that there would come a time when no one could rule David, and that's exactly what happened. It happened after Joey.
    • Note to reader: Still in flashback mode.
    • Soon David takes the place of his father. Now it is David who comes home drunk and argues with Ellen. His father takes it lightly, but he is frightened. Perhaps his father imagined that they would become closer once David grew up. The truth is that they are growing apart.
    • David says, "I was beginning to judge him. And the very harshness of this judgment, which broke my heart, revealed, though I could not have said it then, how much I had loved him, how that love, along with my innocence, was dying" (1.1.53).
    • What happens is that David and his father go into league against Ellen and become like buddies. His father thinks this is great, but David doesn't want a buddy, he wants a father. He is offended when his father appears naked in front of him. He "wanted the merciful distance of father and son, which would have permitted me to love him" (1.1.54).
    • One night, David is driving back from a party drunk and he loses control of his car and smashes into a pole.
    • David comes in and out of consciousness at the hospital and screams for his mother.
    • When he finally wakes up, his father is standing before him. His father approaches "And he looked very old. I wanted to cry" (1.1.57).
    • As David begins to speak, he realizes that he is in pain and becomes frightened.
    • His father scolds him for driving drunk, and he begins apologizing profusely, gradually realizing that he is apologizing for more than just driving drunk, that he doesn't even know what he is apologizing for.
    • His father just tells him to be careful, and David responds "Daddy" and begins to cry (1.1.66).
    • David says, "My father's face changed. It became terribly old and at the same time absolutely, helplessly young. I remember being absolutely astonished, at the still, cold center of the storm which was occurring in me, to realize that my father had been suffering, was suffering still" (1.1.67).
    • His father begs him not to cry, and tells him that David's behavior is his father's fault. He asks if David has anything against him, and David says no.
    • His father says that he did the best he could, and assures David that he will be back on his feet soon.
    • When David returns home, he realizes that he and his father will never really speak again. His father urges him to go to college. He decides not to and to get a job, but he announces his decision so slyly that his father feels like he is the one who has come up with the idea.
    • Note to reader: We're back to the "present" tense in the south of France. David is remembering the events we have been narrating.
    • David remembers that, in spite of the fact that he was avoiding his father, "we got on quite well, really, for the vision I gave my father of my life was exactly the vision in which I myself most desperately needed to believe" (1.1.74).
    • He remembers how he prided himself on his willpower, on his ability to make hard decisions. He thinks, though, that "decisions are not really decisions at all – a real decision makes one humble, one knows that it is at the mercy of more things than can be named" (1.1.75).
    • David realizes that, as he lay in Joey's bed, his decision was that he was never going to let himself be afraid again. He took flight.
    • Now, alone in his house in the south of France, he's weary of the constant motion and the ennui (boredom). He thinks that perhaps he has just been trying to find himself all this time.
    • But as he says, "I think now that if I had had any intimation that the self I was going to find would turn out to be only the same self from which I had spent so much time in flight, I would have stayed at home. But again, I think I knew, at the very bottom of my heart, exactly what I was doing when I took the boat for France" (1.1.76).
  • Part 1, Chapter 2

    • Note to reader: This chapter is primarily told in flashback, but we render it in the present tense.
    • David meets Giovanni his second year in Paris. The morning of the day that he meets him, David is threatened by his hotel keeper, who says that he will be kicked out. He thinks that hotel keepers can smell poverty.
    • His father has money for him, but refuses to send it because he wants David to come home. Whenever his father asks him to settle down, it makes David think of "the sediment at the bottom of a stagnant pond" (1.2.2).
    • While in Paris, David tries to give the impression that he is above everyone else's company by constantly hanging out with them and looking down on them.
    • David has written to friends for money, but with little success. He decides to call on his old acquaintance Jacques, an aging, Belgian-born, American businessman.
    • Jacques invites him for supper when he calls, though David suspects that Jacques curses himself for it a moment later. Jacques is lonely, though, and he will buy his friends if he must.
    • Note to reader: We're discussing later events involving Jacques that David is now looking back on.
    • For a long time, David thinks that Jacques has, in a way, helped to kill Giovanni. Perhaps he has, but David thinks that he is equally guilty.
    • David remembers running into Jacques at a café shortly after Giovanni is sentenced. They both simply exclaim how terrible it is, and neither comments on the fact that the last time Giovanni asked Jacques for money, Jacques had refused.
    • Jacques says that Giovanni began taking opium, but David thinks that this is only a newspaper speculation. He remembers, though, how terrible and desperate Giovanni was.
    • Giovanni had said to him, "je veuz m'evader – this dirty world, this dirty body. I never wish to make love again with anything more than the body" (1.2.11).
    • While David thinks about Giovanni dying and the void it will leave in his life, Jacques says that he hopes Giovanni's sentencing wasn't his fault. He says that if he'd known the situation he wouldn't have hesitated to give Giovanni the money.
    • Both of them know that this is not true.
    • Jacques asks if they are happy. David says no. He says, "It might have been better if he'd stayed down there in that village of his in Italy and planted his olive trees and had a lot of children and beaten his wife" (1.2.16).
    • Then Jacques says something that surprises David. He says, "Nobody can stay in the garden of Eden. I wonder why" (1.2.17).
    • They part after that, but David has wondered about that question ever since. He thinks that everyone has his or her own personal Garden of Eden. For Jacques, it was football players. For Giovanni, it was young maidens.
    • David thinks that, once people leave their garden, they have a choice between either forgetting it or remembering it. He thinks that both choices are a sort of madness and that it takes a real hero to do both.
    • Note to reader: We're back to the deep past now, when David first met Giovanni and called Jacques for dinner.
    • When David calls, Jacques doesn't want to have dinner at his apartment because his cook has run away. Jacques has a bad habit of making young boys his cooks, even if they don't want to, and they almost always run away.
    • Jacques and David meet at a restaurant on rue de Grenelle, and David quickly arranges to borrow ten thousand francs from him.
    • They have a good dinner, and after decide to go to Jacques's favorite gay bar, owned by a man named Guillaume.
    • The bar gets raided by the police often, but Guillaume always seems to know when it will happen and warns his favorite customers to stay away.
    • The bar is unusually crowded. David remembers seeing the young men and wondering if they were "after money or blood or love" (1.2.22).
    • He recalls how they would come in and brag about having slept with boxers and movie stars, though he never believed them. There is one boy, too, who cross-dresses and is great friends with Guillaume. David is always disgusted by him.
    • The bar is close to David's quarter of Paris, and he admits that he has been in there several times before. Once he caused a scandal by supposedly flirting with a soldier, though he can't imagine that he ever would have done such a thing. All the same, he feels watched when he goes in there.
    • As he and Jacques move to the bar, they both note the presence of an attractive new barman, Giovanni.
    • David offers to bag off and leave Jacques to flirt with him, but Jacques asks him to stay.
    • The sad thing is that David knows Jacques would have to pay Giovanni to sleep with him, and even then Giovanni might not sleep with a man as unattractive as Jacques.
    • David thinks that Jacques secretly despises him and wants him to leave, but David, perhaps out of resentment, forces them to keep up the lie that they are friends. All the same, both benefit because otherwise Jacques will look desperate and pathetic in the bar by himself.
    • David wonders where Guillaume could have found Giovanni. Since he knows Guillaume's tastes, he thinks that Giovanni is like a dream for him.
    • Giovanni asks what they want, and they both order in French. They are excited and order too quickly and Giovanni smiles.
    • Jacques interprets the smile as an opportunity and asks Giovanni if he is new to the area. He asks if it seems strange, but Giovanni doesn't know what he means.
    • Jacques giggles, and David feels ashamed to be next to him.
    • He continues that the reason it would seem strange is because there are only men in the bar. Giovanni says he assumed all their wives were waiting at home, and Jacques asks if he has a wife waiting for him at home.
    • Giovanni turns to another customer and does not respond. Jacques is mildly embarrassed.
    • David kids him that Giovanni is secretly in love with him and just hiding it, that perhaps if he bought him a drink and an Alfa Romeo Giovanni would happily climb into his bed.
    • Jacques says that Giovanni must sleep with girls. He then suggests that David might ask him to have a drink with the two of them.
    • David refuses, saying, "actually, I'm sort of queer for girls myself" (1.2.51).
    • Jacques apologizes sarcastically for threatening David's "immaculate manhood" (1.2.53). He says it would just be a favor.
    • David worries that Giovanni will be confused about who is hitting on whom, but Jacques promises to clear it up.
    • David suggests that they finish their current drinks so they both throw them back. Giovanni comes over to refill them, and David suggests he have a drink with them.
    • Just then, Guillaume comes up to greet Jacques and tease him about hitting on Giovanni. Jacques is pleased to be accused of seductiveness, and the two of them begin making small talk.
    • They move away, leaving just David to buy Giovanni the drink he promised.
    • Giovanni says he doesn't drink alcohol when he works, but asks for a Coca-Cola. David has the same, and realizes that he is quite happy to be talking with Giovanni.
    • He puts the ten thousand franc note on the bar (the one Jacques gave him) and Giovanni thinks that he is rich.
    • David says that is not at all the case, just that he doesn't have change, and Giovanni smiles.
    • Giovanni asks if he is an American, and David says yes, that he is from New York. The two of them begin to discuss the differences between New York and Paris.
    • David says that in Paris you feel "all the time gone by" (1.2.90). In New York, you feel "all the time to come" (1.2.92).
    • Giovanni says that he didn't understand why Americans considered themselves so young, that they were merely emigrants from Europe.
    • David explains that after crossing the ocean, they had very different experiences. Giovanni jokes that they began to act as if they were from a different planet. David is slightly irritated.
    • Looking over, David can see that Jacques is dying to get back to the bar, but Guillaume is keeping him.
    • Giovanni then says that Americans' sense of time is funny, that they treat it like a big parade of progress.
    • He says they act "as though with enough time and all that fearful energy and virtue you people have, everything will be settled, solved, put in its place. And when I say everything I mean all the serious, dreadful things, like pain and death and love, in which you Americans do not believe" (1.2.101).
    • Giovanni says that personally he doesn't buy into any such nonsense. He says, "Time is just common, it's like water for a fish. Everybody's in the water, nobody gets out of it, or if he does the same thing happens to him that happens to the fish, he dies" (1.2.103).
    • David disagrees with him strongly, but blushes as he does so. He says that the difference is that men have a choice.
    • Giovanni mocks him and laughs at his American enthusiasm.
    • David says he appreciates Giovanni's enthusiasm as well, "though it seems to be a blacker brand than mine" (1.2.106).
    • David continues the argument. He says that Americans are like little fish nibbling on a giant whale.
    • Giovanni cuts in and says that will not make them whales; all it will do is defeat the idea of grandeur everywhere.
    • David thinks that Giovanni looks at him as if he were completely inadequate competition for an argument. But Giovanni asks him to continue.
    • He says, "You people dumped all this merde [shit] on us, and now you say we're barbaric because we stink" (1.2.114).
    • Giovanni says that he is charmed by David, and asks if he always speaks like this. David says almost never, and Giovanni says that he is flattered.
    • To continue the conversation, David asks if Giovanni likes Paris.
    • Giovanni suddenly becomes shy. He says he doesn't like how cold it is in the winter. He also thinks that Parisians are not nearly as friendly or fun-loving as the Italians, which is what Giovanni is.
    • David points out that the French think Italians have no sense of measure.
    • Giovanni scoffs. He calls France "a country which is falling to pieces, measure by measure, before their eyes" (1.2.121).
    • Giovanni offers to buy David a drink before the "old man" comes back (1.2.121). He asks if Jacques is David's uncle.
    • David doesn't know whether he is alluding to a sexual relationship with Jacques. David says no, that Jacques is just an acquaintance.
    • Giovanni looks directly at him and says that he hopes Jacques isn't important to him because he seems quite silly.
    • David tries to defend Jacques, but he has to admit that Jacques is not very important to him. He feels a tightening in his chest.
    • They propose toasts to one another. Giovanni asks if he comes to the club often, and proposes that he should come more often now.
    • When David acts surprised by his forwardness, Giovanni says, "Tell me, what is this thing about time? Why is it better to be late than early? People are always saying, we must wait, we must wait. What are they waiting for?" (1.2.134).
    • David has the sense that they are approaching deep and dangerous water. He replies that people want to be sure of what they feel.
    • Giovanni laughs and called him a philosopher. He goes to serve someone else, and tells David to wait and see if he feels sure when he returns.
    • David feels uncomfortable because he suddenly realizes that everyone in the bar has been watching them like two animals in a zoo.
    • Jacques escapes from Guillaume, but gets tied up with some of the young boys.
    • When Giovanni comes back, he winks at David and asks if he is sure. David implies that he is, and Giovanni teases him that he shouldn't be so hasty. He wanders off again.
    • An extremely flamboyant man – the flaming princess – emerges from the crowd and begins to make his way toward David. He has on a shirt made of paper thin wafers of different colors and, when he approaches David, he puts his hand on his hip.
    • He asks if David is pleased by Giovanni, and David plays dumb.
    • The man asks again and David tells him to mind his own business and to get the hell away from him.
    • The man tells him that Giovanni is very dangerous. Though David wants to know what he means, instead of asking he tells him to go to hell.
    • The man grabs a crucifix he is wearing on his chest and says that he will not go to hell. He predicts, though, that David will be consumed by a fire.
    • He asks David to buy him a drink. When David refuses, "His face crumpled in the sorrow of infants and of very old men – the sorrow, also, of certain aging actresses who were renowned in their youth for their fragile, child-like beauty. The dark eyes narrowed in spite of fury and the scarlet mouth turned down like the mask of tragedy" (1.2.158).
    • The princess tells David that he will be very unhappy, and turns and walks away through the crowd.
    • Jacques returns and comments on how the whole bar is impressed with David's banter with Giovanni. He asks if there has been confusion.
    • David scowls at him. He suddenly wants to get out of the bar and to find Hella. He tells him that there is no confusion, and tells him not to be confused either.
    • Jacques retorts that he is not at all confused. He says, "Confusion is a luxury which only the very, very young can possibly afford, and you are not that young any more" (1.2.163).
    • David decides to get drunk. Giovanni continues to wink and flirt with him, and Jacques surveys his behavior. David resents him hugely.
    • A number of people are coming in and going out of the bar.
    • David can't even look at Jacques. He drinks in an attempt to drown "the ferocious excitement which had burst in me like a storm" (1.2.171).
    • David thinks that Jacques feels like he has won a bet, that he has finally seen what he has been waiting so many months to see.
    • He wants to leave the bar, to go to Montparnasse (a quarter in Paris), and pick up a girl. He can't, though, and he knows that it doesn't really matter. It doesn't matter because "they had become visible, as visible as the wafers on the shirt of the flaming princess, they stormed all over me, my awakening, my insistent possibilities" (1.2.172).
    • Note to the reader: We're back to the present tense of the book where David is generally reminiscing about Giovanni from his house in the south of France.
    • Looking back, David thinks that he and Giovanni connected from the first moment that they met and would remain connected even after Giovanni died.
    • He knows that Giovanni will continue to rise in his memory time and again.
    • As he says, "Sometimes, in the days which are coming – God grant me the grace to live them: in the glare of the grey morning, sour-mouthed, eyelids raw and red, hair tangled and damp from my stormy sleep, facing, over coffee and cigarette smoke, last night's impenetrable, meaningless boy who will shortly rise and vanish like the smoke, I will see Giovanni again, as he was that night, so vivid, so winning, all of the light of that gloomy tunnel trapped around his head" (1.2.173).
  • Part 1, Chapter 3

    • Note to the reader: We're again in David's flashback.
    • David, Giovanni, Jacques, and Guillaume leave the bar at five in the morning. As Guillaume locks up, David admires the spire of the church at St. Germain des Pres and thinks of Hella.
    • The four of them pile into a taxi and head to Les Halles for breakfast.
    • As they scrunch together, Jacques and Guillaume make lewd comments. David is irritated, but Giovanni leans back calmly. His behavior seems to indicate that there is no reason to be upset since they will soon be rid of the old men.
    • As they go over a bridge, Giovanni says, "Look. This old whore, Paris, as she turns in bed, is very moving" (1.3.3).
    • David looks out the window at the barges tied up on the banks of the Seine and the sun coming up over the river. Lonely men walk down along the banks.
    • Giovanni takes David's hand, and he asks if David has ever slept under a bridge.
    • Out of a sort of competition with Giovanni, David replies that he has not yet, but that his hotel keeper threatened to kick him out that very morning.
    • David pulls his hand away. He covers up his discomfort by searching for a cigarette, which Jacques lights for him.
    • Jacques asks where Giovanni lives. He tells him he lives by Nation, and Guillaume chips in that it is a dreadful part of town full of bourgeoisie and their pig-like children.
    • Jacques suggests that perhaps Guillaume missed the children in their prime. He asks Giovanni if he lives in a hotel.
    • Giovanni, slightly embarrassed, replies that he lives in maid's quarters. He adds that he doesn't know what happened to the maid.
    • Jacques says that he would like to see Giovanni's room, and Giovanni, both to be polite and to brush away the flirtation, says that he will have a party for him some day.
    • While Guillaume eyes Giovanni, David makes a resolution (he has been making resolutions all night). The resolution is that as soon as he and Giovanni are alone, he will explain the misunderstanding. David thinks Giovanni has misread everything, but then he wonders if perhaps he is the one who is confused.
    • The cab arrives in Les Halles, whose streets are strewn with crates of food waiting for trucks to come and pick them up.
    • The streets are thronging with people and, when a woman makes an obscene gesture at the cab, Giovanni and the driver shout at her. The two of them become friendly and banter about the bad hygiene and silly habits of the French. Jacques and Guillaume scour the streets for young males, and David is left to just observe the sidewalks and the cafés they pass.
    • The city seems strange to him, but to Giovanni it is completely natural.
    • Giovanni picks a place for them to go. Jacques protests that he has another place in mind, but with contempt, Giovanni says that Jacques's place is just an expensive tourist trap.
    • Giovanni tells David that he used to work in Les Halles, and he looks out on the streets "with a sadness which was not less real for being a little theatrical and self-mocking" (1.3.22).
    • Guillaume reminds Giovanni who it was that rescued him. Giovanni asks Guillaume if he is pleased with his work, and is still happy to have found him. Guillaume says that he is.
    • The taxi stops.
    • David reaches for his wallet to pay, but Giovanni grabs his hand, indicating that the least the two old men can do is cover the fare.
    • Seeing the dingy cafe, Guillaume says that they will all be poisoned.
    • Giovanni assures them that he is not trying to poison anyone. If he did, he would be out of a job, and as he says, "and I have only just found out that I want to live" (1.3.31).
    • Guillaume and Giovanni exchange a bizarre glance, but then Jacques ushers all of them inside.
    • David looks around the restaurant to see some young men, an ugly group of teenagers playing pinball, an impeccably dressed waiter, and an obese cook in the back.
    • Behind the register is "one of those absolutely inimitable and indomitable ladies, produced only in the city of Paris." David thinks that such women "must come into the world hungry for banknotes, and squinting helplessly, unable to focus their eyes until they came to rest on a cash-register" (1.3.35).
    • The woman hugs Giovanni. It is clear that most of the people in the bar know and like him.
    • The woman teases Giovanni for not coming around as often anymore and compliments him on his "rich friends."
    • Giovanni says that his life has become all work and no play, and the woman laughs. At the suggestion of another man at the bar, the old woman goes to get them drinks.
    • David thinks that everyone at the bar seems proud of Giovanni.
    • Giovanni introduces everyone, and the woman at the bar, Madame Clothilde, seems particularly taken with David.
    • Guillaume suggests that they sit down, but Giovanni protests that they should have a drink at the bar with Mme. Clothilde. The result is that Guillaume has to buy her champagne.
    • The other young men at the bar are sizing up Guillaume and Jacques. It is clear that they prefer Giovanni and David, but because the two appear to be "together," the only way the men can communicate their affection is by relieving them of the old men.
    • Giovanni goes to chat with some of the boys at the bar. Guillaume and Mme. Clothilde have a pretty standard conversation about business and politics, and Jacques decides to tease David.
    • Jacques tells David that he looks like something in a vision. He tells him that this is an important day for him.
    • Jacques says, "You are lucky that what is happening to you now is happening now and not when you are forty, or something like that, when there would be no hope for you and you would simply be destroyed" (1.3.66).
    • David tries to act like he doesn't know what is going on, but Jacques presses the point by asking if he will write a letter to Hella to tell her about Giovanni.
    • Jacques looks upset. He asks if David will treat Giovanni as badly as he has treated Jacques.
    • David says he doesn't know what Jacques is talking about. Jacques says, "You have been very unfair to me. You have been very dishonest" (1.3.76). Jacques says at least he could have despised him less.
    • David admits that he did find Jacques's life despicable, but Jacques retorts that he could say the same of David's life. He reminds him that he was once younger than David, and says, "There are so many ways of being despicable it quite make's one's head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people's pain" (1.3.80).
    • David asks if there isn't some better way for him than to enjoy himself with young boys in the dark. Jacques tells him not to pretend that he too hasn't been with men in the dark.
    • After a pause, Jacques says that the reason David finds his life shameful is because he thinks that Jacques's encounters are shameful. The key, he says, is to ask why they are.
    • Jacques says the reason they are shameful is "Because there is no affection in them, and no joy. It's like putting an electric plug in a dead socket. Touch, but no contact. All touch, but no contact and no light" (1.3.87).
    • When David asks Jacques why this is so, he says, "That you must ask yourself, and perhaps one day this morning will not be ashes in your mouth" (1.3.89).
    • David looks over at Giovanni, and Jacques tells him that Giovanni's affection for him should make him happy. Instead, he is ashamed.
    • David says that he doesn't understand Giovanni's kind of friendship, and Jacques kids him.
    • Once he gets David to grin, he says vehemently, "Love him. Love him and let him love you. Do you think anything else under heaven really matters?" (1.3.98).
    • Jacques tells him not to think of it as dirty, that if they love each other it doesn't have to be dirty. He finishes his cognac and signals Mme. Clothilde.
    • When Mme. Clothilde comes to serve Jacques, she asks if David will be having another drink. He hesitates, and she encourages him to have another.
    • Guillaume offers a redheaded boy named Pierre a cognac, which Mme. Clothilde pours while Guillaume goes down the bar to talk to him.
    • As Mme. Clothilde goes to watch the sun rise and finish her champagne, David smiles sardonically and says that he is observing things his father never told him.
    • Jacques says, "Somebody, your father or mine, should have told us that not many people have ever died of love. But multitudes have perished, and are perishing every hour – and in the oddest places! – for the lack of it" (1.3.105).
    • As Giovanni comes back to talk with David, Jacques turns and begins talking to the boy next to him.
    • Giovanni apologizes for leaving for so long, and David says that he looks like an excited boy on Christmas morning.
    • Giovanni is delighted at the description, but says that he is always disappointed on Christmas morning.
    • David tries to clarify and says that he means early on Christmas before the presents are open, but it doesn't matter and they are both laughing anyway.
    • Giovanni proposes that they go and drink white wine and eat oysters together in the dining room. The two of them observe Guillaume and Jacques, talking happily with their boys.
    • In the dining room, Giovanni says that they will eat quickly and go. After all, he has to work that night.
    • David asks if Giovanni met Guillaume in this café. He says, laughing, that he actually met him in a theatre. He had gone to see a Western with Gary Cooper.
    • After the movie ended, Guillaume had followed Giovanni into the lobby. He gave him a long complicated story about how he had lost his scarf on Giovanni's seat, and asked him to go look for it. Giovanni knew it was all just an excuse, but looked anyway.
    • When he didn't find it, Guillaume acted astonished, but proposed that they have a drink together. Giovanni went along with it and, at drinks, Guillaume asked to have dinner with him a few days later.
    • Giovanni says that he didn't intend to go but, when the night of the dinner came, he was hungry.
    • David observes him as he speaks, and "saw in his face again something which I have fleetingly seen there during these hours: under his beauty and his bravado, terror, and a terrible desire to please; dreadfully moving, and it made me want, in anguish, to reach out and comfort him" (1.3.123).
    • The oysters arrive and the two of them begin to eat.
    • Giovanni continues the story. He realized that Guillaume could be useful, that Guillaume could get him a carte de travail and a job. He tried to keep Guillaume's hands off of him, but did not wholly succeed.
    • Things were not as bad after he began working at the bar, but of Guillaume Giovanni says, "I do not know what he is. He is horrible" (1.3.125).
    • Giovanni predicts that a storm is brewing and that sooner or later Guillaume will find something to be mad at him about.
    • The two of them sit silently. David feels a strong desire to go "home, home across the ocean, to things and people I knew and understood; to those things, those places, those people which I would always helplessly, and in whatever bitterness of spirit, love above all else" (1.3.128).
    • David thinks that his situation with Giovanni is not so strange as he would like to believe, but all the same it is strange and he can not help but feel ashamed for falling head over heels for a boy.
    • The two of them go back out to find that Guillaume and Jacques are getting drunk and flirting aggressively with the boys without actually offering them money to eat. They pass out into the street.
    • David says that he really needs to get back and pay the concierge.
    • Giovanni tells him that he is mad, and says that if he wakes up hung over and alone in the hotel than he will want to kill himself.
    • Giovanni suggests that David come home with him. He says that they will wake and Giovanni will smile at him, whereas if he goes back to the hotel the concierge will not. Then they can grab dinner together.
    • As Giovanni hails a cab to take them to Nation, David realizes that Giovanni is also afraid. When the cab arrives, Giovanni almost pushes him into it, as if he fears that David will leave him if given the chance.
    • Inside the room, the two of them stare at each other for a moment. David thinks that if he does not leave immediately then everything will be lost.
    • Giovanni takes David in his arms and pulls him down to the bed, "With everything in me screaming No! yet the sum of me sighed Yes" (1.3.138).
    • The action moves back to the present, at David's home in the south of France, where it is snowing.
    • David goes and looks in the mirror, thinking that he will shave before he leaves in the morning.
    • He hears a knock at the door and realizes that it is the caretaker. She sounds worried and he is annoyed.
    • The woman smiles wide as soon as David opens the door and he realizes that everything is fine.
    • The caretaker comes from Italy, and, like most of the women in the village, seems to have gone into mourning as soon as her last child grew up.
    • David remembers walking around the village with Hella and thinking that all of the men, the husbands, seemed like they could be the sons of these old mourning women.
    • He used to play billiards and drink red wine with them at the tabac, but sensed that they would never really get along with one another.
    • He says, "They might have been the sons of these women in black, come home after a lifetime of storming and conquering the world, home, to rest and be scolded and wait for death, home to those breasts, now dry, which had nourished them in their beginnings" (1.3.141).
    • The caretaker comes in and removes her shawl. She asks whether David is sick, and says that they have not noticed him leaving the house for several days.
    • He changes the subject by asking if she would like to take the inventory.
    • As the woman begins to inventory, David sets down his drink. She tells him that she doesn't mind, but he leaves it anyway.
    • She asks if he has been going to town because the men have not seen him there.
    • When he says yes, she asks if he has been walking because the bus driver has not seen him on board the bus in awhile.
    • David doesn't know what to say. When she looks in the bathroom, he says that he will clean it before the morning, and she says that she certainly hopes so.
    • David remembers that he broke two glasses, but doesn't have the energy to tell her, so he resolves to leave money for her in the cabinet.
    • The woman tells him that he should have come across the street, that she would have been happy to cook for him.
    • He is touched, but does "not know how to indicate it, and I cannot say, of course, that eating with her and her husband would have stretched my nerves to the breaking point" (1.3.162).
    • She asks about David's fiancée. Too tired to lie, he tells her that Hella has gone to America.
    • The caretaker is surprised and asks if David will be staying in France. He says he will, for awhile.
    • He becomes nervous and begins to sweat.
    • David realizes that this Italian caretaker probably looks very much like the mother of Giovanni.
    • He says, "I keep trying not to hear her howls of anguish, I keep trying not to see in her eyes what would surely be there if she knew that her son would be dead by morning, if she knew what I had done to her son" (1.3.166).
    • But of course, it is not actually Giovanni's mother.
    • The woman tells him it is not good for a man to be alone without a woman. David can tell that she wants to say something about Hella, who none of the women liked, but she doesn't.
    • She tells him that he will be happy again, that he will find a good woman and have plenty of children.
    • She asks after his mother and father. He says that his mother is dead, but that his father is in America. She exclaims, Pauvre bambino!
    • David says, "I am really helpless in front of her and if she does not leave soon she will reduce me to tears or curses" (1.3.175).
    • She asks if he will make a home someday, and he says yes, someday.
    • The caretaker tells him that she and her husband lost two of their three sons in the war. She says it's sad to work all one's life for just a little peace and then to have it so rudely taken away. She says it almost killed her husband.
    • Still, though, she says that she loves to see her one son's children, her grandchildren.
    • Abruptly, she asks if he prays.
    • He says not often, and she asks if he is a believer. He smiles and says yes.
    • She tells him that he has to pray, that without it "one could not live in this world at all" (1.3.181).
    • The caretaker pauses and worries that she has offended David by speaking so directly. He tells her that he is not offended.
    • She smiles and says, "Men – not just babies like you, but old men, too – they always need a woman to tell them the truth" (1.3.183).
    • They go down to the bedroom, which David promises to tidy up before he leaves.
    • She jokes with him that he must get married, and he laughs (they are on good terms now) and finishes his drink.
    • When she sees the bottle, she exclaims that he will be drunk by morning.
    • David explains that he is taking the bottle with him, but she can tell that this is a lie.
    • She puts her shawl back on, and David tries to think of some way to make her stay.
    • He says, "I feel that I want to be forgiven, I want her to forgive me. But I do not know how to state my crime. My crime, in some odd way, is in being a man and she knows all about this already. It is terrible how naked she makes me feel, like a half-grown boy, naked before his mother" (1.3.188).
    • The woman departs and asks him to come back and visit some time. Just as she is stepping out, she turns and reminds him to pray one last time.
    • He closes the door.
    • David suddenly realizes that there's plenty to do before morning. He begins cleaning the bathroom, which makes him think back to the room that he shared with Giovanni in Paris. For awhile Giovanni had planned on remodeling the room, but he had never completed it.
    • David closes by saying, "I suppose they will come for him in the morning, perhaps just before dawn, so that the last thing Giovanni will ever see will be that grey, listless sky over Paris, beneath which we stumbled homeward together so many desperate and drunken mornings" (1.3.198).
  • Part 2, Chapter 1

    • Recalling his time with Giovanni, David says, "I remember that life in that room seemed to be occurring beneath the sea, time flowed past indifferently above us, hours and days had no meaning" (2.1.1).
    • Note to the reader: We're back to our extended flashback, which we render in the present tense.
    • Their relationship is filled with joy and amazement, but David thinks that deeper down there is anguish and fear.
    • He can see the suffering that Giovanni is going through in his very face, which is beginning to look old and gaunt.
    • David and Giovanni often go to Guillaume's bar and stay until breakfast. Ever since their affair started, Jacques has been coming out more and more. He always offers to drive them home, but they choose to walk.
    • Spring is beginning to bloom in Paris. On their regular walks back, David and Giovanni get to know the firemen.
    • David alludes to the fact that later, that winter, Giovanni will be hiding in a barge and it is going to be a fireman who tips off the police. (This is a mystery, but don't sweat it – we're not supposed to understand it yet.)
    • At some point, Giovanni loses his job. As the two of them walk around and observe the people working the bookstalls and the couples on bicycles, things are very bitter between them.
    • Giovanni knows that David is going to leave him. Hella is coming back from Spain. David's father is sending him money that will allow him to escape from Giovanni's room.
    • Energy seems to increase in the city as spring arrives. David says, "There seemed to be more chatter – in that curiously measured and vehement language, which sometimes reminds me of stiffening egg white and sometimes of stringed instruments but always of the underside and aftermath of passion" (2.1.5).
    • The men in Guillaume's bar do not like David. He thinks that watching him and Giovanni together "[make] them furious that the dead center of their lives [is], in this instance, none of their business" (2.1.6).
    • Giovanni and David often stay up drinking and smoking and talking. Giovanni is very open, but David always feels the need to hide something.
    • For example, he does not tell Giovanni about Hella until he absolutely had to because she is coming back to Paris.
    • Giovanni asks what she is doing in Spain in the first place. He suggests that perhaps she has a Spanish lover, and says that he does not understand the way of doing things. Why aren't they together if Hella is his mistress?
    • Giovanni asks if Hella is younger (she is, by two years) and if she is married (she is not).
    • Giovanni says that if Hella has a husband somewhere her living in Spain would make sense because she couldn't spend too much time with David.
    • David takes all of it as a joke and laughs. He asks if Giovanni has a mistress, but Giovanni says that women are more trouble than he can afford at present.
    • David asks if Giovanni dislikes women.
    • He denies it, saying, "Women are like water. They are tempting like that, and they can be that treacherous, and they can seem to be that bottomless, you know? – and they can be that shallow" (2.1.26).
    • Giovanni admits that he only makes love to women with his body, and David says that makes one very lonely. They are both surprised by the honest moment.
    • Giovanni hems and haws, trying to say that he respects women, but David presses him and he says that they are "full of ideas and nonsense, and thinking themselves equal to men – quelle rigolade! – they need to be beaten half to death so that they can find out who rules the world" (2.1.30).
    • David asks if Giovanni knows women that like to be beaten. He says that he doesn't know whether or not they like it, but he beats them anyway.
    • They both laugh.
    • Giovanni returns to the subject of Hella. He asks whether or not she wants David.
    • David suggests that she went to Spain to find out.
    • Giovanni thinks that is a stupid suggestion and thinks it was unfair for her to weigh David against all the men in Spain.
    • David becomes defensive, saying that she is a complex and intelligent girl. Giovanni says that she sounds rather silly.
    • Then David abruptly retorts, "If she were in Paris now, then I would not be in this room with you" (2.1.37).
    • Giovanni doesn't understand. He agrees that David would not be living there, but thinks that they could still see each other.
    • David asks what would happen if she found out.
    • The two of them continue to bicker. Giovanni says that David is incomprehensible, that he is trying to make an English murder mystery of his life when they have not actually committed any crime.
    • David says his concern is just that she would be terribly hurt if she found out. He also points out that, in America, what they are doing is a crime.
    • Giovanni retorts that David shouldn't be afraid of dirty words. He adds, "If your countrymen think that privacy is a crime, so much the worse for your country" (2.1.46).
    • He presses the point, wanting to know if David would have any time after Hella got back.
    • David begins to lose his patience.
    • Giovanni says that he couldn't see any reason why Hella would not like David. He says, "To arrange, mon cher, la vie pratique, is very simple – it only has to be done" (2.1.51).
    • David thinks that perhaps Giovanni's resistance, his presentation of himself was linked to the fact that "he knew, unwillingly, at the very bottom of his heart, that I helplessly, at the very bottom of mine, resisted him with all my strength" (2.1.51).
    • They sleep. When they wake, they both know that they desperately want to get out of the room.
    • David leaves Giovanni at the door to Guillaume's. He wanders the streets, perhaps writing letters to his father and his fiancé. He says, "And no matter what I was doing, another me sat in my belly, absolutely cold with terror over the question of my life" (2.1.54).
    • Note to the reader: Here, we're back to general reminiscence from David's house in the south of France.
    • David remembers a time when Giovanni and he were splitting a bag of cherries. They were joking and jostling each other and laughing. They were happy.
    • Realizing this, David knew how lucky he was to have a love in his life at his age. Yet a moment later a boy passed and David imagined that he could be in love with that boy the same way he was in love with Giovanni.
    • He fears the moment when he and Giovanni will separate.
    • He says, "And would I then, like all the others, find myself turning and following all kinds of boys down God knows what dark avenues, into what dark places?" (2.1.55).
    • He goes on, "With this fearful intimation there opened in me a hatred for Giovanni which was as powerful as my love and which was nourished by the same roots" (2.1.56).
  • Part 2, Chapter 2

    • Note to the reader: More flashbacks, rendered in present tense.
    • David spends a relatively brief time in Giovanni's room. Yet it feels like a lifetime. He is certain that he undergoes a sea change there.
    • The room is small with windows that open on the courtyard and are covered with white paint.
    • Giovanni began to renovate the room before David's arrival. It is constantly such a mess that they dread even doing laundry and sometimes go days without socks.
    • They have no phone and, other than Jacques, who comes rarely, no one comes to visit.
    • David remembers the first time he woke up in Giovanni's room. It was a mess. Giovanni went searching about for a "poetic figure" and suggested that all the garbage of the city was dumped in his room (2.2.5).
    • Looking back, David thinks "This was not the garbage of Paris, which would have been anonymous: this was Giovanni's regurgitated life" (2.2.9).
    • The disorder never bothers David. It is the fact that when one looks in the normal places for order, it is not there. He feels that the disorder is not just messiness; that it is a matter of "punishment and grief" (2.2.10).
    • David thinks that Giovanni is attracted to him because he wants David to transform his room and then his life.
    • David begins to play the housewife when Giovanni is at work, but he knows he will never make a good one – men never make good housewives.
    • Giovanni often tells him "how wonderful it was to have me there, how I stood, with my love and my ingenuity, between him and the dark" (2.2.11).
    • David cannot help it. He constantly fights and resists the advances of Giovanni, but he does not know how to stop.
    • Sometimes David goes to check his mail at the American Express Office at Opéra. Sometimes Giovanni keeps him company. Giovanni constantly kids him for being an American. When he is angry with David, he tells him that he is truly an American and when he is happy with him, he tells him that he is not an American. David resents it.
    • Yet, he has to admit that, when he goes to the American Express Office, all of the Americans do seem like a herd. They are bound together by a certain uniformity that he can never put his finger on.
    • He thinks, though, "Yet I also suspected that what I was seeing was but a part of the truth and perhaps not even the most important part; beneath these faces, these clothes, accents, rudeness, was power and sorrow, both unadmitted, unrealized, the power of inventors, the sorrow of the discontented" (2.2.13).
    • David waits in line behind two American girls. He gathers that one of them has fallen in love with a Swiss boy and that she is trying to stay on in Europe.
    • When he reaches the front of the line, he finds that he has two letters – one from his father and one from Hella. He opens his father's first.
    • The letter from David's father is loving and concerned. He tells David that he is wasting his time over there; that he wants to be let in on the secret of what is keeping him in Paris; that he is too old (pushing thirty) to still be gallivanting around; and that he wants him to come back.
    • David thinks that the question his father really wants to ask is whether or not he has a girl. He thinks that the reason he didn't, though, is because he could not have endured an answer in the negative.
    • David sees a sailor walk by. He wishes that he were the sailor, and now he says, "He seemed – somehow – younger than I had ever been, and blonder and more beautiful, and he wore his masculinity as unequivocally as he wore his skin" (2.2.19).
    • A moment later, though, the sailor looks at him with contempt. David realizes it is because the sailor sees the desire in his eyes, and he leaves the Office and walks to a café down by the river to read Hella's letter.
    • Hella says that, though she adores Spain, she misses Paris. She says that her response to David's proposal is in the affirmative, and that there is an English boy who has been chasing her there. Yet, the boy will be gone in a week and she can return to Spain.
    • After reading the letter, David realizes that he has been waiting for it for a long time. He orders a drink and wonders what he is going to do.
    • David is relieved. He feels like the necessity for decision has been taken out of his hands. Giovanni must have known that their life together would end – sooner or later.
    • For a moment, David thinks of going straight to Giovanni and telling him immediately. He thinks that he is afraid of the look on Giovanni's face, but then he realizes that his fear is of something else.
    • David heads down to Montparnasse to go looking for a girl. The first few prostitutes he sees are not very attractive, and so he keeps looking.
    • The girl that David finds is named Sue. He knows her. She is not pretty, but not unattractive either. She is from Philadelphia, and as soon as David sees her he begins to mentally undress her.
    • She is happy to see him and they sit down to have drinks. She claims that her heart is built like a brick stonewall, and asks David where he is living.
    • He tells her that he is living in a maid's room out by the gym, and lies about Giovanni. He says there is a boy who will occasionally get thrown out by his mistress and will come stay with him.
    • When David sees how much the waiter despises the two of them, it makes him think of how good Giovanni is with waiters.
    • He says, "With this fleeting thought there came another, equally fleeting: a new sense of Giovanni, his private life and pain, and all that moved like a flood in him when we lay together at night" (2.2.46).
    • Sue is trying to be coy. David feels that he is doing something very cruel.
    • He propositions her, asking to have a drink at her place. She refuses kindly, saying that she is sure she shouldn't. He is insistent and she reluctantly agrees, provided that David buys himself a drink on the way back since she has nothing there.
    • When they get back, David immediately takes her in his arms. He can feel how stiff she is and knows that what they are about to do will not be pretty.
    • She moves out of his arms and asks if the two of them can have a drink. When he suggests they have a couple, she says not too many and "simpered, again, suggestively, like a broken-down movie queen facing the cruel cameras again after a long eclipse" (2.2.76).
    • David thinks that whatever he has done with Giovanni, nothing is as immoral as what he is about to do to Sue.
    • When he takes her in his arms, he notices that "It was a gesture of great despair and I knew that she was giving herself, not to me, but to that lover who would never come" (2.2.79).
    • David wonders if Sue has taken birth control. The thought of her becoming pregnant – of him becoming trapped just as he was trying to escape – almost makes him laugh.
    • He realizes that Sue is not Hella, and that their experience is not decreasing his fear but increasing it. He thinks that his fear has nothing to do with bodies, male or female.
    • Their sex is more of a success than he could have imagined, though the entire time he is just waiting for it to end.
    • After they finish, David has a cigarette and Sue has a drink. She asks if they could do it again sometime, and David says that he doesn't see why not.
    • She asks if they can have dinner, and David talks his way around it. She realizes what happened and goes to the bathroom to wash up and get dressed.
    • She comes back and looks at David and says that perhaps he will be lonely again. She wouldn't mind that.
    • David says, "She wore the strangest smile I had ever seen. It was pained and vindictive and humiliated but she inexpertly smeared across this grimace a bright, girlish gaiety – as rigid as the skeleton beneath her flabby body. If fate ever allowed Sue to reach me, she would kill me with just that smile" (2.2.94).
    • In a sad attempt at a joke, David tells her to keep a candle in the window.
    • Sue opens the door and they walk out into the night.
  • Part 2, Chapter 3

    • Note to reader: Still part of the extended flashback.
    • After David leaves Sue, he finds himself alone, wandering down the river at night, thinking about death.
    • He isn't suicidal: "I simply wondered about the dead because their days had ended and I did not know how I would get through mine" (2.3.3).
    • David thinks about all the innocent children and wonders if one day they will be out wandering alone by the river – destroyed.
    • He admits to himself that he wants a wife and children, a safe and easy life. He thinks that perhaps, with just a short burst of strength, he can regain it.
    • When David opens the door to Giovanni's room, he finds Giovanni drunk on cognac, with his hair in his face, laughing out of hysteria and despair.
    • Giovanni grabs David and pulls him close. A moment later, he pours him a cognac.
    • David asks what happened. Giovanni begins cursing about how dirty all the old men are. He says that only David is not dirty.
    • Then he admits that Guillaume fired him, and that Guillaume was incredibly cruel. He called Giovanni a thief in front of everyone.
    • David feels like the walls of the room are closing in on him.
    • Giovanni says that Guillaume waited until the bar was full to accuse him and yell at him. He says that he wants to kill them all, and then he throws back his cognac and flings the glass against the wall.
    • David takes Giovanni in his arms and he begins weeping. David feels anguish for Giovanni, but also incredible contempt.
    • Giovanni begins to tell the story.
    • He says that as soon as he got to work he could tell that Guillaume was in a dangerous mood. He says that you can always tell when Guillaume has been humiliated because he pretends to be so respectable afterward.
    • At first, Guillaume was business-like, trying to find fault with Giovanni's work. When he couldn't, he called Giovanni up to his room.
    • In his room, Guillaume began asking lewd questions about his relationship with David. Giovanni says he wouldn't stand for it. Guillaume began accusing Giovanni of being very dishonest, of taking advantage of his emotions.
    • He reminded Giovanni of one time when he slept with Guillaume for money, and continued to slander David.
    • Giovanni refused to stand for it and left.
    • In the room with David, Giovanni asks for more cognac. David gives him his glass and he empties it.
    • He says they will be OK and then stares gloomily out the window.
    • Giovanni goes on. He went back to work. After the bar filled, though, Guillaume came down in a horrible temper. He accused Giovanni of being a thief and a bastard and emptied the register and threw the money at him.
    • Furious and embarrassed, Giovanni went to hit Guillaume, but all the men grabbed him and threw him out.
    • Staring at the wall, Giovanni says to David that, if it weren't for him, this would be the end.
    • David tries to cheer him up and tells him this can't be the worst thing that ever happened to him.
    • Giovanni says, "Maybe everything bad that happens to you makes you weaker" (2.3.23).
    • He says that the worst happened long ago and that his life has been horrible ever since.
    • Giovanni keeps asking David if he will leave him, and David denies it. Giovanni says he couldn't keep on if David left.
    • David suggests getting out of the apartment, getting a drink, and coming back. Giovanni says that he loves David and then goes and cleans up.
    • When he comes out, he looks rejuvenated and apologizes for going mad.
    • The two of them gather their money, which totals nine thousand francs (not a lot of dough).
    • David does not want Giovanni to despair and tells him he will write his father again, though at this moment he doesn't feel that either his father or Hella are real.
    • David has a "despairing sense that nothing was real for me, nothing would ever be real for me again – unless, indeed, this sensation of falling was reality" (2.3.39).
    • Alone (in the present at the house in the South of France) David thinks that he will collapse in anguish in this house. He thinks that his executioners lurk behind every wall and window and that if he calls out no one will hear.
    • He says, "It would help if I were able to feel guilty. But the end of innocence is also the end of guilt" (2.3.41).
    • David admits that he loved Giovanni more than he will ever love anyone again. Yet he knows that Giovanni will find relief in his execution.
    • David remembers a man at one of Guillaume's cocktail parties that had been in prison and written a book about it. He says, "I remember thinking that, in effect, he had never left prison, prison was all that was real to him, he could speak of nothing else" (2.3.43).
    • David thinks in great detail of how the man would describe his life there, of how when they dragged a man out to be executed he would only get one brief glimpse of the day before he was back in a dark hall again.
    • David wonders what Giovanni's doing. He wonders if he is writing a letter, if he knows that he will be executed, if he cares. David thinks that he is afraid. He wonders if he has to go to the bathroom, if his hair is long or short, if he has made love to anyone in prison.
    • David interprets these thoughts as proof of his love for Giovanni. He hopes that Giovanni has someone to make love with and thinks that, right now, he would make love with whoever walked in the room.
    • Note to reader: Back to extended flashback, here rendered in the present tense.
    • David puts off writing his father for money. He has a lie in mind, but he is afraid that by the time he writes the letter, it will no longer be a lie.
    • Giovanni tries to carve a bookcase into the wall of the room. It is incredibly hard, monotonous labor.
    • David finds the days torturous. He realizes that he is the only person in the world that cares about Giovanni, and he can't deal with the burden.
    • Instead of asking his father, David goes and gets more money from Jacques, who is surprisingly kind about it.
    • Once, he and Giovanni are having coffee at a terrace at Odéon, and he thinks that it would be perfect if Jacques would take Giovanni off his hands.
    • When Giovanni asks what he is thinking about, though, he says that he wants to leave Paris.
    • He says, "I'm sick of this city. I'm tired of this ancient pile of stone and all these goddam, smug people. Everything you put your hands on here comes to pieces in your hands" (2.3.58).
    • Giovanni says he will go wherever David goes.
    • David suggests Spain, and Giovanni thinks that perhaps he is lonely for his mistress.
    • David denies it and says he just wants to see it. He asks if Giovanni would prefer to go home to Italy.
    • Giovanni says he no longer has a home in Italy. David says that surely he is exaggerating, that one day he will go back just as David will go back to the U.S.
    • Giovanni says that everything bad will happen one day. He tells David that the problem is that when he goes back to the U.S. he will realize that he no longer has a home there and then he will really be in a fix.
    • David is amused, saying "Beautiful logic. You mean I have a home to go to as long as I don't go there" (2.3.73).
    • David suggests he could shut his ears to the problem, and Giovanni says he is like a man who would put himself in prison to avoid being hit by a car.
    • David says he thinks Giovanni is actually speaking of himself, and Giovanni says he doesn't know what he is talking about.
    • David says he is speaking of Giovanni's awful little room. Giovanni becomes indignant and asks where else he should live. He wants to know how long David has hated the room.
    • David apologizes for hurting his feelings, but Giovanni feels that David is being too formal, even in his apology.
    • Giovanni bursts out that David wants to leave Paris and the room.
    • David says that Giovanni misunderstands him and Giovanni says he hopes that that is the case.
    • Later, in the room, Giovanni asks if David has heard from Hella, and David says she might turn up any day now.
    • Giovanni asks David to embrace him, and he hesitates. They both have bricks in their hand from working on the wall.
    • David says, "It really seemed for an instant that if I did not go to him, we would use these bricks to beat each other to death" (2.3.97).
    • Giovanni again demands that David come to him. They embrace.
    • David says, "At moments like this I felt that we were merely enduring and committing the longer and lesser and more perpetual murder" (2.3.100).
  • Part 2, Chapter 4

    • Note to reader: Still part of the extended flashback.
    • Finally, the note from Hella arrives saying that she is on her way.
    • Without telling Giovanni, David leaves and goes to the train station to pick her up.
    • He prays something definitive will happen the moment he sees her, but at first, it doesn't. They stand there, staring at each other, and then she asks him to come hug her.
    • He does, and when he remembers how well she fits into his arms, he knows that they can make each other very happy.
    • As David says, "She smelled of the wind and of space and I felt in her marvelously living body the possibility of legitimate surrender" (2.4.5).
    • Hella is thrilled to see him and he begins asking her all sorts of questions about Spain.
    • Hella says that she doesn't like Spain much, that she is always happy to come back to Paris.
    • She says that even if two people are divided, it seems that Paris would be a place of reconciliation. David says he hopes they don't have to put it to the test.
    • She kisses him passionately and they go back to her room to sample drinks she has brought back from Spain.
    • David tries not to think of Giovanni sitting alone in the room. He wants to postpone dealing with it, but knows that Giovanni has already divided them.
    • David says, "I kept kissing her and holding her, trying to find my way in her again, as though she were a familiar, darkened room in which I fumbled to find the light" (2.4.15).
    • It is clear that Hella can sense some distance, but she must think it is all on her end. She is not suspicious.
    • Neither of them mentions the elephant in the room – David's proposal – but he wants her to mention it. He imagines that his passion for her could drive out his passion for Giovanni.
    • David says that she has been away for a long time, and she says it is a lonely time. He asks if she likes Spain at all.
    • She says she just didn't know what she was doing there and that she had begun to fear that she missed the boat.
    • Hella brings up her positive response to David's proposal. He says he doesn't know whether or not she is serious.
    • David's fear, though he doesn't voice it, is that she just wants him because he is there, not because she loves him. He thinks, though, that if this is true then she doesn't know it.
    • She admits it was offhand, but then again, she says, everything that they do is offhand.
    • Hella says that, truth be told, she is really quite a traditional girl. She wants a house and a man to come home to and plenty of kids.
    • David says he'd always wanted the same thing.
    • They turn to each other in the dark. David feels the desire to just lie next to her; "But then, deep within, I felt her moving, rushing to open the gates of her strong, walled city and let the king of glory come in" (2.4.32).
    • David writes to his father to tell him that he has proposed to a girl named Hella Lincoln, that the only reason he has been out of touch is because he was afraid she would say no.
    • He asks for money and says he will bring her home soon and tells his father that he will love her.
    • Three days later, Hella and Giovanni meet by accident. David has not seen him in that time period.
    • While they wander about the city, Hella has begun to complain about the difficulties of being a woman.
    • David has never heard her complain like this before. She says it is hard to be at the mercy of a man.
    • She says that David has been a stranger to her many times and will be again, but David says the same is true of her.
    • Hella persists. She says, "For a woman, I think a man is always a stranger. And there's something awful about being at the mercy of a stranger" (2.4.45).
    • David says that men can be at the mercy of women, too.
    • Hella says men like that idea because "it strokes the misogynist in them" (2.4.47).
    • David laughs. He thinks that she is making a biased and silly argument.
    • Hella says that the thing she realized in Spain is that a woman can't be free until she's committed to a man. She thinks that now that she's committed to David she can sit about the house all day and read and think and complain about being a woman.
    • She tells David that they will fall very much in love, and not to worry about it.
    • David says, "You're adorable. I don't understand you at all" (2.4.56).
    • As they pass a bookstore, Hella asks if she can go pick something up. David follows her in and, among the bookshelves, he runs into Jacques.
    • Jacques tells him that he and Giovanni have been looking for David all day. He says that when Giovanni didn't hear from David for several days, he called Jacques; "The poor boy sounded as though he would have put his head in the gas oven" (2.4.62).
    • Giovanni wanted to drag the river, but Jacques just laughed. He suggested Giovanni call David at Hella's hotel, which is where Giovanni has gone. Jacques says he will be back shortly.
    • Hella returns, and David re-introduces them. Hella immediately remembers that she dislikes Jacques. He becomes excessively effeminate to flame her dislike.
    • Hella and Jacques banter about how she and David have been hiding out.
    • David, fearful of seeing Giovanni, tries to sneak out, telling Jacques that he and Hella really need to get dinner.
    • But just then, Giovanni enters the shop. He is furious and on the verge of tears. He demands to know where David has been.
    • David, with remarkable calm, introduces Hella. Giovanni greets her politely, but coldly.
    • Jacques suggests that they all go grab a drink and takes Hella by the arm. Giovanni and David walk up ahead.
    • Giovanni accuses David of hiding from him. When he tells David that he is not nice at all, David feels that he wants to cry.
    • Hella stops, saying that she is not feeling well and will go back to the hotel. She encourages David to grab drinks with his friends.
    • David says that he will walk her home, and Jacques and Giovanni are excessively polite as they depart.
    • They walk away and David can feel Jacques's and Giovanni's eyes on their backs. Hella says that Jacques gives her the creeps.
    • David stops to light a cigarette. He realizes that Hella is not suspicious, only troubled.
    • She asks about Giovanni. He tells her that he has moved in with him, in a maid's room, a couple months ago when he ran out of money.
    • Hella says it was not nice of him to leave without telling him, and David protests that Giovanni is only his roommate and he had no way to know that he would be so upset.
    • Hella says that he should really go have a drink with them; that just because they are going to be married doesn't mean that he has to break with his friends. She also says it doesn't mean that she has to like his friends.
    • After a moment, Hella comments on how incredibly intense Giovanni is, even for an Italian.
    • David says that Giovanni had a mistress and a job when David moved in with him. He tells Hella that Giovanni has lost both and perhaps that is why.
    • She asks if he is a very good friend of Jacques. David says not quite as good a friend as Jacques would like. She laughs.
    • Hella says, "I always feel a cold wind go over me when I find myself in the presence of a man who dislikes women as much as Jacques does" (2.4.119).
    • David says that then they will just have to keep Jacques away from her. He kisses her on the nose and she asks if he would like to have a drink.
    • He agrees. They go up the dark hotel stairs together, giggling like children.
    • Later, in bed, Hella asks David to tell her about Giovanni.
    • He tries to brush it off, but she is persistent.
    • She wants to know how he got such a beautiful face, and thinks there must be some reason David went to live with him.
    • David says that he is very fond of Giovanni. Feeling bold beside Hella in bed, he says, "I love him, in a way. I really do" (2.137).
    • They discuss how demonstrative and affectionate Europeans can be, but agree that it is kind of nice.
    • Hella says they should take Giovanni out for dinner sometime. David agrees.
    • He says that, since being in Paris, he has begun to realize how difficult it is for boys like Giovanni. He says that Giovanni is poor, has very little opportunity, and that competition is fierce for the few jobs that he can find.
    • They tease about how cold the world is, and Hella says that at least they have their love to keep them warm.
    • David says, "We're not the first people who thought that as they lay in bed" (2.4.151).
    • After a moment, David tells Hella that he wants to leave Paris. He says that it is suffocating him and that he can't do anything there.
    • Hella is slightly disturbed.
    • He explains that Giovanni worships him and thinks that David can help him, but the truth is that he can't. He says it is an awful situation and he will explain more later, but for now they just have to go away – perhaps to the south (of France).
    • Hella says that she will follow him wherever he wants to go.
    • The next evening, David goes to Giovanni's room. Giovanni is in bed. He is scared when David comes in because he does not recognize him.
    • As soon as he does, he curls up against the wall and starts to cry. David sighs and goes and sits next to him and urges him to stop crying.
    • David hoped he would feel nothing. But he says, "I felt a tightening in a far corner of my heart, as though a finger had touched me there" (2.4.181).
    • Giovanni says that David has never really been there, that he never really reached him.
    • David says nothing and Giovanni becomes angry.
    • He says David is evil; that he'd never told him anything but lies.
    • He says, "Do you think I did not know that when you made love to me, you were making love to no one? No one! Or everyone – but not me, certainly. I am nothing to you, nothing, and you bring me fever but no delight" (2.4.184).
    • Giovanni says that he wanted to die before he met David. He says it was cruel of David to have made him want to live, only to make his death bloodier.
    • David cannot respond because he does not know what he feels.
    • Giovanni begins to tell David his story.
    • He says he was married once, in Italy. He has a beautiful wife that loved him, and they lived happily in a village and made love every day.
    • Giovanni says that he would have grown fat in that village that was "dripping and bursting and beautiful" (2.4.192).
    • He says that perhaps David would have rolled into the village in a big ugly American car and smiled a fake smile at all the people there.
    • He says that David does not know what it is like to lie awake at night and wait for someone that does not come.
    • He says, "You do not know any of the terrible things – that is why you smile and dance the way you do and you think that the comedy you play with the short-haired, moon-faced girl is love" (2.4.192).
    • Giovanni drops his cigarette and begins to cry.
    • David thinks that he can't bear this scene.
    • Giovanni continues.
    • He says that one day he found himself walking down the dusty road out of his village alone, weeping so violently that he could barely catch his breath.
    • Giovanni and his wife had a child, but it was born dead:
    • "It was all grey and twisted when I saw it and it made no sound – and we spanked it on the buttocks and we sprinkled it with holy water and we prayed but it never made a sound, it was dead. It was a little boy, it would have been a wonderful, strong man, perhaps even the kind of man you and Jacques and Guillaume and all your disgusting band of fairies spend all your days and nights looking for, and dreaming of – but it was dead, it was my baby and we had made it, my girl and I, and it was dead. When I knew that it was dead I took our crucifix off the wall and I spat on it and I threw it on the floor and my mother and my girl screamed and I went out" (2.4.194).
    • David takes Giovanni in his arms, and Giovanni is weeping as if his heart is broken. Yet David feels that it is his own heart that has broken, and that now he is very still and far away.
    • David says that Giovanni must have known that they could not have a life together.
    • Giovanni says that he lied so much he believed his own lies.
    • He says that David never really loved anyone; that he is like a virgin trying to keep his purity intact. He says that he is "afraid of the stink of love" and that he is by far the most immoral man that Giovanni had ever known (2.4.202).
    • David protests that he can't help the way he feels. Giovanni asks what that is, and he says that he wants to get away.
    • Giovanni says at last he is beginning to be honest.
    • Giovanni mocks the innocent life that David will lead with Hella.
    • David finally begins to fight back. He says that Giovanni has no idea what life they can have together anyway. He says that Giovanni just wants to feel like a man and have David be his girl. He says that the only reason he is with David is because he is afraid of going after what he really wants – a woman.
    • Giovanni says, "You know very well what can happen between us. It is for that reason you are leaving me" (2.4.214).
    • He walks to the window and says that he will not fight with David anymore because there is nothing he can do to make him stay.
    • Giovanni says he must believe David will come back, but David says he will not and Giovanni knows it.
    • They have a cognac together, and David asks what he will do.
    • Giovanni says he will let Jacques take care of him, that Jacques thinks David is a monster. David begs Giovanni to be careful, but Giovanni retorts that David should have told him that the night they met.
    • David stays the night, packs a bag, and leaves.
    • David remembers their parting moment. Giovanni is pale and calm and just stares at him without breaking away his gaze.
    • David realized that he wants to stay, and that the fact that he is fleeing merely confirms the power that Giovanni has over him.
    • Yet he turns and walks out, and the further he gets, the more he knows he will never go back.
    • David fumbles in his pockets for bus tickets. He makes small talk with a policeman on the street, and gets on the first bus that comes.
    • His flight reminds him of his flight from Joey and from his father.
    • He thinks "But it seemed to me that morning that my ancient self had been dreaming the most dangerous dream of all" (2.4.237).
    • Time begins to fly after that and winter settles.
    • David and Hella keep busy looking for houses in the south, making love, and eating at cafés. They are often melancholy, though David doesn't think that Hella is unhappy.
    • Perhaps she senses that David is clinging to her a little too insistently and that it won't last.
    • David begins to see Giovanni out with Jacques. He is often giddy and drunk, "forcing me to taste the cup of his humiliation. And I hated him for this" (2.4.240).
    • He sees Giovanni once in the morning reading a paper, alone. Giovanni glances at him and walks away.
    • When David recounts the incident to Hella, he tries to laugh.
    • Later, Giovanni begins to appear, not with Jacques, but with the poor street-boys that he used to despise.
    • Most frequently, he appears with Yves, the pockmarked pinball player from Les Halles.
    • David takes Yves out one night to get news of Giovanni.
    • Yves tells him that Giovanni has broken with Jacques, but that he might be able to get his job back at Guillaume's.
    • About a week later, Guillaume is found dead in the quarters above his bar, "strangled with the sash of his dressing gown" (2.4.242).
  • Part 2, Chapter 5

    • Note to reader: The extended flashback continues.
    • The murder creates an enormous scandal, and everything points to Giovanni as the murderer.
    • As David says, "Such a scandal always threatens, before its reverberations cease, to rock the very foundations of the state. It is necessary to find an explanation, a solution, and a victim with the utmost possible speed" (2.5.1).
    • A number of gay bars are closed, and the police begin going around picking up society men known for having "peculiar tastes."
    • Both the street-boys and the society men are frightened of this outburst of public morality.
    • The longer that Giovanni ceases to appear, the more intense become the cries against him printed in the papers.
    • Ironically, the papers paint Guillaume extremely gently, playing up the fact that he comes from one of the oldest families in France. They nearly paint him as "a symbol of French manhood" (2.5.2).
    • David is furious, and complains to Hella that the papers aren't getting it straight.
    • She argues that they are telling part of the truth and that's all papers can be expected to do.
    • Hella asks David if he thinks that Giovanni really did it. He says that it certainly looks like he did.
    • Hella comments that David has made peculiar friends while she was away, and he cries that they wouldn't seem so peculiar if one of them had not been murdered.
    • Hella thinks that David should be able to tell if Giovanni is capable of murder or not since he lived with him. David says that doesn't mean anything. He says that Hella doesn't know if he himself is capable of murder.
    • She argues that she can tell that he isn't capable of murder because she loves him. David exclaims that he loves Giovanni, but Hella says that it isn't in the same way that she loves him.
    • When Hella asks why David is so upset, he becomes indignant. He says that Giovanni is a friend of his, that he is a nice man, and that David doesn't want to see him get into trouble.
    • Hella tells David that the two of them can leave Paris soon so he won't have to think about it. She tells him not to pretend it is his fault.
    • David says that he knows that it isn't his fault, but at the same time he feels like he wants to cry.
    • Giovanni stays at large for nearly a week. David thinks about him every night.
    • He says, "I looked to Hella for help. I tried to bury each night, in her, all my guilt and terror. The need to act was like a fever in me, the only act possible was the act of love" (2.5.30).
    • When they find Giovanni, he is hiding in a barge on the Seine. They predicted that he had fled to Argentina, so it is a surprise to find him still in the city.
    • He looks pale and haggard and still has Guillaume's money on him, which he has been unable to spend.
    • The papers say that the motive was probably a bungled robbery and report Giovanni's cries for mercy and forgiveness.
    • As David says, they "told us, too, in delicious detail, how he had done it; but not why. Why was too black for the newsprint to carry and too deep for Giovanni to tell" (2.5.31).
    • David thinks that he might have been the only person in Paris who knows why Giovanni did it.
    • He remembers the night Giovanni told him about what Guillaume had done to him. He thinks that Jacques probably told everyone at the bar that Giovanni was single, and that it induced a mad riot. By then, Giovanni had probably given up on love and would act as others pleased.
    • David imagines the scene with Guillaume. (Note, then that what is below may or may not have happened. Since it's an imagined past scene we render it in the past tense.)
    • Giovanni went back to see Guillaume and ask for his job back. Guillaume teased him about David leaving him, but told him to come back later.
    • Giovanni went and had drinks with some of the street-boys. He wished that one of them would tell him to stay away from Guillaume, but none of them would have understood.
    • David imagines that Giovanni went back, and was invited up to Guillaume's room. He imagines that Giovanni protested, that he said he couldn't do it, but that Guillaume overpowered him.
    • David says, "I think if this had not happened, Giovanni would not have killed him" (2.5.45).
    • He imagines that after Guillaume took advantage of him, Guillaume became business-like and said that he could not offer Giovanni a position.
    • The two of them understood that the real reason was that Giovanni had lost his drawing power, his secret appeal.
    • Guillaume was delighted, and began to make fun of Giovanni, to mock their current situation.
    • At some point, he must have crossed the line and Giovanni attacked him. David thinks that Giovanni did not mean to do it, but that he pursued Guillaume about the room, and that just as Guillaume was about to escape, he pulled away the sash of his dressing gown and put it about his neck.
    • David says, "Then he simply held on, sobbing, becoming lighter every moment as Guillaume grew heavier, tightening the sash and cursing. Then Guillaume fell. And Giovanni fell – back into the room, the streets, the world, in the presence and the shadow of death" (2.5.48).
    • Back to the flashback:
    • David and Hella move to their house in the South. David doesn't want to be there or anywhere.
    • He thinks about staying in Paris to be close to the trial. Jacques stays close and brings David updates. There is nothing either of them can do.
    • Giovanni pleads guilty, with robbery as the motive. The papers continue to slander him and to pity Guillaume.
    • Though there is nothing David can do for Giovanni, for a time he thinks that he still might be able to help Hella.
    • Yet all he can think about is Giovanni's trial: "And the nightmare of this house began" (2.5.50).
    • David's love for Hella gradually turns to hatred. He ceases to find her attractive, thinks the swing of her breasts is irritating, and that her unwashed underwear is disgusting.
    • As he says, "All that had once delighted me seemed to have turned sour on my stomach" (2.5.52).
    • David is terrified of what is happening. He feels that he is about to begin a great fall, that Hella is the only thing keeping him from it, and that her fingers are slipping.
    • They travel a lot in the south of France, but don't have enough money to enjoy themselves. A great distance grows between them. There are long periods of silence, and Hella begins to lose her confidence – one can see her despair on her face.
    • For reasons that he does not understand, David is able to make love in the mornings. Yet there is no excitement in it and neither of them enjoy it.
    • One night, David wakes up screaming from a nightmare.
    • Hella begs him to tell her what the problem is. He tries to dismiss it, but she guesses it.
    • She says that it is Giovanni; that he is blaming himself for what happened to Giovanni.
    • David unintentionally exclaims, "He was so beautiful" (2.5.64).
    • He pours himself a drink and admits that Giovanni and he had a terrible fight before they parted. He admits that Giovanni was in love with him.
    • Hella says that she knows how David feels, but he denies it. She begs him not to shut her out.
    • David says that he just needs some time, but Hella retorts that he has been saying that for a long time.
    • She wants to know what they are doing in the South. She wants David back. She wants to return to the States and to have kids and start a family.
    • When Hella asks David what he wants, he says that he does not know.
    • She begs him to tell her the truth. He asks her for patience, but she says that she doesn't know how to be patient when she doesn't even know where he has gone.
    • Hella begins crying and David holds her without feeling anything. Then, "I stepped away from her. She swayed, where I had left her, like a puppet dangling from a string" (2.5.85).
    • Hella begs David to let her be a woman. She goes up to him and kisses him, but he cannot respond. When he does, he feels as if he is very far away and is just watching two strangers embrace.
    • Soon after, David goes to Nice and goes roaming about for a sailor. He finds one and they spend a few days together. They are having drinks in a bar when David looks in a mirror and sees Hella's face.
    • He says, "She looked very tired and drab and small" (2.5.88).
    • The sailor asks David if the woman has the wrong bar. Hella says that isn't all she got wrong and the sailor looks at David.
    • When the sailor realizes the situation, he laughs and moves away.
    • Hella says that she thinks she has known for a long time, and David follows her out into the cold streets in silence.
    • Hella says that it is time for her to go home – "I wish I'd never left it" (2.5.99).
    • As Hella packs, she says that if she stays any longer she will forget what it means to be a woman.
    • David doubts that she could forget that. He wants to say many things, but the words close in his throat.
    • He tells her that, when he lied, he wasn't lying to her.
    • With a terrible face, Hella looks at him and exclaims that she was the one he was talking to, the one he had asked to come live in this house with him, to marry him.
    • David says what he meant was that he was lying to himself, but Hella is unimpressed. He shouts that he did not mean to do it.
    • Hella says, "Don't shout. I'll soon be gone. Then you can shout it to those hills out there, shout it to the peasants, how guilty you are, how you love to be guilty" (2.5.110).
    • David wants to comfort her, but he knows that if he touches her it will be torture for both of them.
    • Hella says what makes her so mad is that she knew. She wishes that David had told her since women are always waiting for the man to speak.
    • David does not respond.
    • She says that then they would not have wasted so much time in this house.
    • David says that maybe all he knew was that he needed to get out of Giovanni's room.
    • Hella tells him that now he is out, that it is her turn to get out. She tries to make a joke about Giovanni being the only one to lose his head, but it does not go over well for either of them.
    • As she finishes packing, she says she will never understand how that little Italian gangster ruined their life. She tries to laugh but starts to cry.
    • She says, "Americans should never come to Europe. It means they can never be happy again. What's the good of an American who isn't happy? Happiness was all we had" (2.5.119).
    • She falls into his arms, for the last time, sobbing.
    • David begs her not to believe that; they have so much more.
    • She cries for how much she wants David. She says that every man she meets now will make her think of him.
    • David asks her to try to forgive him much later, when she is happy.
    • Hella says that she no longer knows anything about happiness or forgiveness. She begins applying make-up, and says that it is true that there is a difference between little boys and little girls. Girls want little boys, but she has no idea what little boys want.
    • She tells David to mix her a drink and says, "I wish I could drink all the way to Paris and all the way across that criminal ocean" (2.5.123).
    • They drink in silence and then the taxi arrives. David carries out her bags and settles with the driver.
    • He asks if she wants him to come to the station, but she just says good-bye. He says the same and they shake hands.
    • As the taxi pulls away, David waves one last time. Hella does not wave back.
    • Note to the reader: The book ends now in the present, at David's house in the south of France.
    • Dawn begins to come up around David's house. His bags are packed. The bus will arrive for him shortly, but for the moment he cannot move.
    • There is a blue envelope on the table. It is a letter from Jacques telling him the date of Giovanni's execution.
    • David watches his reflection in the window, but as the sun comes up it grows more and more faint. This amuses him.
    • He tries to imagine what Giovanni is doing right now. He imagines the keys jangling down the hall and all the prison filled with dread.
    • David goes to the bedroom to change into the clothes he will wear to travel.
    • There is a mirror in the room that makes him terribly uncomfortable.
    • He imagines that Giovanni's face appears before him, and he imagines Giovanni being dragged from his cell, perhaps moaning, or crying, or perhaps saying nothing at all.
    • He imagines Giovanni being taken to the priest's office and hugging the cross before he is carried on.
    • David looks at his own naked body in the mirror. He says, "I look at my body, which is under sentence of death. It is lean, hard, and cold, the incarnation of a mystery. And I do not know what moves in this body, what this body is searching. It is trapped in my mirror as it is trapped in time and it hurries toward revelation" (2.5.145).
    • Looking down at his "sex," David thinks of all the trouble it has caused him and wonders how he can escape now.
    • He imagines Giovanni begin taken into the room of his execution. He says, "Then the earth tilts, he is thrown forward on his face in darkness, and his journey begins" (2.5.148).
    • David dresses and thinks that he simply must keep his faith that it is possible for the grace of God to carry him out of his situation.
    • Dressed, he exits the house. He returns the key to the caretaker, and sees a group of people before him waiting for the bus.
    • In his words, "The morning weighs on my shoulders with the dreadful weight of hope and I take the blue envelope which Jacques has sent me and tear it slowly into many pieces, watching them dance in the wind, watching the wind carry them away. Yet as I turn and begin walking toward the waiting people, the wind blows some of them back on me" (2.5.150).