Francis is a world-class fencer but a damaged and complex young man. Handsome, intelligent, cultured and wealthy, he is the younger son of a rich father who, after an unfulfilled fencing career, pushes his children to the limit so that they can one day obtain the title of World Champion. Torn between his love for playing the piano and his duty towards fencing, Francis gets into a fight with his father and seals his own fate. Still barely a child, he leaves home for good, pledging to one day make his father pay. He also leaves behind his older brother, who is to become his deadly rival.
Francis moves to Paris and is taken under the wing of Monsieur R., a renowned fencing coach. He also becomes friends with Paolo, the Italian fencing champion, and they become a formidable girl-hunting team. But it all comes to a head when Francis meets Agnes...
The book tracks Francis' progress, both as he fights to overcome the emotional problems caused by his obsessed father and tries to open his heart to love, and as he advances in the fencing world championship in a bid to reach the final.
The Fencer is an intelligent and character-driven literary novel, with influences from existentialism and romanticism. Informed by the author's own experience as a competitive fencer, it provides a unique insight into the world of professional fencing.
After finishing his studies at Stanford University in the United States, Ayala R. migrated to Europe. He has lived in seven countries and speaks five languages. Ayala R. was living in Vienna at the time this book was published.