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Pantalaskas is a Lithuanian immigrant living in Paris. When he is evicted from his hotel, he becomes desperate and, in an attempt to kill himself, he cuts a piece off his ear. He finally manages to find new lodgings with Battistini, a policeman, but his despair returns and he makes a second attempt on his life. Assisted by an hotelier, Troppmann, and a schoolteacher, Clairgeon, Battistini does his best to save Pantalaskas and befriend him.