The book begins with the fall of an Indian window cleaner from a skyscraper: the twelfth in the last six months, when Indians don't normally suffer from vertigo. John l'Enfer is a Cheyenne Indian and also a cleaner of skyscrapers in this city of his ancestors until he loses his job following a demonstration about work conditions. He is in love with Dorothy, but the relationship is only platonic.
Dorothy Kayne is a young sociology lecturer temporarily blinded and infantilised after an accident, and who wears a mask. She too is doubtless in love with John, although she's blind to it and her sexual energy is spent on Ashton.
Ashton Mysha is a Polish Jew, a naval officer now grounded due to ill health, who will love Dorothy – if that's the right word – and then leave New York city, leave life, in a well-planned suicide.
Only John l'Enfer appears to be aware of what's really happening to New York. Oddly, there's no English translation of this very incidentally cinematic tale.