Henry Miller, a writer from New York whose money has run out, lives in Paris on the generosity of American friends who give him food and a space to sleep. His wife Mona crosses the Atlantic to see him, but soon leaves when she realises the hopelessness of his position. When he does wheedle a bit of cash, he spends it on drink and women. He finds a job, providing bed and board though no pay, as a teacher of English at a boy's school in Dijon, but soon leaves. Another opportunity is to mentor a wealthy young Indian, which again does not last. Finally he lands a proper job with an American newspaper and becomes friends with another expatriate, Fillmore. From a rich family, Fillmore has got involved with Ginette, possibly a prostitute, who is possibly infected and probably pregnant. He suffers a mental breakdown and is hospitalised. Once he is released, Henry persuades him to head back fast to the USA, promising to take care of Ginette. When Fillmore gives him 500 francs for Ginette, Henry realises that, despite his love for the Old World and the freedom he has enjoyed there, he too could now head back fast to the USA.
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