Rome, in the splendour of summer. Tourists flock to the Janiculum Hill: a Japanese man collapses, felled by such beauty. Jep Gambardella -- a handsome man with irresistible charm, despite the first signs of ageing -- enjoys the city's social life to the full. He attends chic dinners and parties, where his sparkling wit and pleasant company are always welcome. A successful journalist and inveterate seducer, in his youth he wrote a novel which earned him a literary award and a reputation as a frustrated writer. He masks his disenchantment behind a cynical attitude, which makes him view the world with bitter lucidity. On the terrace of his Rome apartment which overlooks the Coliseum, he hosts parties where "the human apparatus" -- that was the title of his novel -- is stripped bare, and where the comedy of nothingness is played out. Weary of his lifestyle, Jep sometimes dreams of taking up his pen again, haunted by memories of a youthful love which he still hangs on to. But will he ever manage it? Can he overcome this profound disgust for himself and others, in a city whose dazzling beauty sometimes leads to paralysis?
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