The main character, Antoine, is a very intelligent man. He is, in fact, too intelligent and this makes it impossible for him to live a normal life. He can't help himself from constantly thinking to the problems of humanity, which leads to unhappiness, he studied only subjects that are not practical in a money based society and he is very poor. Because he can't stand this condition anymore, Antoine tries to find a solution. He thinks about suicidal, tries to learn ways to do it. Failing in doing this, he tries to become alcoholic, a failure again.What is interesting and source of humour at the same time is the manner in which Antoine, in both cases, studies various works on the subject and makes notes.
As a consequent of his failures, and understanding that the source of his misery is his inelligence, which he already consideres as an illness, he decides to become stupid, hoping that thus he will become happy too, the way so many other people are. He gets in touch with an old school mate, whom he used to despise, he gets very rich, still he doesn't really find what he is looking for. After a while, his former friends ( who are as strange as he used to be) decide to bring him back and finally succeed in doing it, and the unexpected meeting with Clemence at the end of the book, gives the feeling of a possible accomplishment . Interesting and beautifully expressed are the stages Antoine undorgoes and his thoughts and attitude in a world and life where he can only be a spectator and not a participator.