Nine men. Each of them at a different stage in life, each of them away from home, and each of them striving - in the suburbs of Prague, in an overdeveloped Alpine village, beside a Belgian motorway, in a dingy Cyprus hotel - to understand what it means to be alive here and now. Tracing a dramatic arc from the spring of youth to the winter of old age, the ostensibly separate narratives of All That Man Is aggregate into a picture of a single shared existence.
It is 1948 and Aleksandr, a major in the MGB (the forerunner of the KGB) is sent to an isolated psychiatric clinic to investigate one of the patients there. The patient is a man long presumed dead - a now severely incapacitated veteran of the Second World War, who seems unable to remember any of his past. Twenty-four years later, Aleksandr is haunted by the case. With his Stalinist faith under threat as the Cold War recedes, he interrogates his memories and the effect the case had on himself and on those he loved most.
Nine men: each of them at a different stage of life, away from home, and striving - in the suburbs of Prague, in a cheap Cypriot hotel - to understand just what it means to be alive here and now. Tracing an arc from the spring of youth to the winter of old age, All That Man Is brings these separate lives together to show us men as they are - ludicrous and inarticulate, shocking and despicable; vital, pitiable, hilarious, and full of heartfelt longing.
James and Katherine meet at a wedding in London in 2006, towards the end of the money-for-nothing years. James is a man with a varied past now living alone in a flat in Bloomsbury; Katherine is separated from her husband and working in an interim job in a luxury hotel. They exchange phone numbers at the wedding, but from then on not much goes according to the script.
Paul Rainey, an ad salesman, perceives dimly through a fog of psychoactive substances his dissatisfaction with his life - professional, sexual, weekends, the lot. And 'something' seems to fall into his lap when a meeting with an old friend and fellow salesman, Eddy Jaw, leads to the offer of a new job. But when this offer turns out to be as misleading as Paul's sales patter, his life and that of his family are transformed in ways very much more peculiar than he ever thought possible.