Jean Benner, Brieses weeping over the body of Patroclus (1878)

Set in a single day, Phygē (“exile” in Greek) chronicles the adventures of Olees in the city of Berlin. He is a Palestinian-Syrian theater director who fought in the revolutionary war in Syria ten years ago. Now he has to face another war raging on in neighboring Ukraine when he meets Yosyp, a Ukrainian actor who recently escaped to Berlin, as well as the amorous adventures of his wife Martha, an American soprano of Jewish-German origins who moved back to her family home in Berlin.

The story begins in the Ukraine with Yosyp, 30, wandering in the bombed-out Mariupol theater and reliving the role of Hamlet he once played in better days on its stage. He wakes up in his bed. It is early morning in Berlin.

In another part of town, Olees and Martha are facing a marriage that has crumbled after the loss of their son. Before he heads out to a funeral, Olees learns of Martha’s loveless affair with her manager and their rendezvous that afternoon.

While Martha carries out a loveless affair at home, Olees wanders through the city, meeting all kinds of people and going from place to place: to the funeral, attending a rehearsal of Hamlet, going to different restaurants, cafés, and religious monuments, and visiting a friend at a maternity hospital.

In the meantime, Yosyp searches for his missing Ukranian fiancé but fails to find her. He auditions that afternoon for the part of Hamlet and coincidentally meets Olees at the theater. They end up together that evening and visit a brothel. Olees loses track of Yosyp and finally finds him knocked out outside the brothel. He takes him home but Yosyp refuses to stay the night.

Olees goes to bed, tells Martha about his day, and surprises her with a request for breakfast in bed. She remains awake, thinking about her day, all her past lovers, and a memory of a time with Olees.