Siggi Jepsen, incarcerated as a juvenile delinquent, is one day assigned to write a routine German lesson on the "The Joys of Duty." Overfamiliar with these "joys," Siggi sets down his life since 1943, a decade earlier, when as a boy he watched his father, constable of the northernmost police station in Germany, doggedly carry out orders from Berlin to stop a well-known Expressionist, their neighbor, from painting and to seize all his "degenerate" work. Soon Siggi is stealing the paintings to keep them safe from his father. Against the great brooding northern landscape. Siggi recounts the clash of father and son, of duty and personal loyalty, in wartime Germany. "I was trying to find out," Lenz says, "where the joys of duty could lead a people"