The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Adam Krug is a supreme individualist. The name “Adam” suggests the archetypal individuation that occurred in the Garden of Eden with the naming of the first humans. “Krug” is Russian for “circle,” suggesting a whole, a unity that circles back upon itself. Yet with Krug’s wife, Olga, dead, the Garden is under attack; evil has entered and must be confronted. This Krug refuses to do, believing that he cannot be hurt by anyone in government, feeling arrogantly secure in his international reputation. The nether side of Krug, his mirror image (“bend sinister” is a term from heraldry, denoting a diagonal band that divides a shield from upper left to lower right), is Gurk, “Krug” spelled backward. Gurk is an Ekwilist soldier who wants his share of the brutalizing fun. Yet Gurk and all the soldiers, like all the citizens of Padukgrad, are, Nabokov says, merely anagrams of everybody else. Thus, the leader Paduk is simply a slightly brighter Gurk and, at the same time, the inverse side of Krug, the brutalizing side, the selfish side. In their youth, Krug had tormented Paduk. “I was something of a bully,” Krug says, “and I used to trip him up and sit upon his face . . . every blessed day for about five school years.”

As a philosopher, Krug works with words, attempting to come to rational conclusions about the nature of the universe, but, although he has been successful in demolishing the theories of other philosophers, he has not posited...

(The entire section is 454 words.)

Bend Sinister Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Adam Krug

Adam Krug (krewg), a world-famous philosopher living in a small Eastern European country where the language is a blend of Germanic and Slavic roots. A portly, arrogant man, forty years old, Krug is contemptuous of those with lesser intellectual powers. Not interested in politics, he assumes, rather naïvely, that he has nothing to fear from the Ekwilists, who have taken over his country and instituted a police state. In a benumbed state of mind because of the recent death of his wife, he vacillates, postponing his departure abroad. His colleagues at the university and his friends are arrested one after another. Krug finally attempts to flee, but it is too late.

Olga Krug

Olga Krug, Adam’s thirty-seven-year-old wife. She dies at a hospital in the first chapter of the book.

David Krug

David Krug, their son, eight years old. He is a bright, engaging child whom Krug loves inordinately. the Ekwilists eventually realize that Krug can be forced to support their oppressive policies if they take David as hostage. They seize him but then bungle everything and allow him to be murdered by a group of deranged persons participating in an experiment in group psychology.


Paduk, nicknamed (by Krug) The Toad, Krug’s former schoolmate who becomes leader of the Ekwilist Party and later dictator of the country. A bully as a boy, the fat, powerful Krug used to torment the unpopular Paduk by tripping him and then sitting on his head. Paduk apparently is homosexual and in love with Krug. His political philosophy emphasizes the virtues of collectivity and a total equality that will reduce everyone to the lowest common denominator. His Party of the Average Man is based on a somewhat distorted version of Fradrik Skotoma’s works.


Ember, Krug’s friend and fellow scholar....

(The entire section is 781 words.)