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In the summer of 1931, a cruise ship sails from Mexico on its way to Bremerhaven, Germany. Among its many diverse passengers are a Spanish noblewoman, a drunken German lawyer, an American divorcee, a pair of Mexican Catholic priests, a number of Germans returning to their homeland from Mexico, and a corrupt, avaricious company of Spanish singers and dancers who scheme to defraud the other passengers of their money. In the mingling and meeting of these varied personalities on board the ship of fools, a drama of good and evil takes place from which no one will emerge unchanged. Rich in incident, passion, and treachery, the novel's themes of nationalism, cultural and ethnic pride, and basic human frailty are as relevant today as they were when the novel first appeared in 1945.