Vladimir (Vlad) Samsonov
Vladimir (Vlad) Samsonov, a Russian youth. Vlad is, for the most part, modeled on the author and is the main character. At the beginning of this coming-of-age story, he is a small Jewish boy growing up in the Moscow suburb of Sokolniki. He becomes aware, early in life, of his background and of the resulting disadvantages. He spends his life trying to adjust to his precarious position while holding on to his tenuous yet deep-rooted family ties. As a schoolboy, he merges his individuality with the collective and renounces his dissident father, a concentration camp convict. Later, he is forced to leave home and his mother, who is surprisingly glad to get rid of him and whom he never forgives for that. Vlad finds love and support in his grandfather Saviely, which unfortunately does not prevent him from spending long years wandering and searching for his true self. In his life as a delinquent, sleeping in railroad stations and shantytowns and serving time in jail, reformatories, and juvenile detention centers, two things keep Vlad alive: love for books and the goodness of some of his fellow tramps. Although several times he is on the verge of giving up in despair and committing suicide, he survives primarily because of his urge to be a poet and because of his constant thinking of home, to which he wants to return in triumph. He also benefits from his ability to adapt quickly and painlessly to new situations, from being mature for his age, and from some qualities that make others, especially his peers, like him and want to help him (most of them affectionately call him “kid”). Prone to falling in love, which often leads to misfortune and disappointments, he finds little happiness with women, being always aware of a wall dividing him from others. This pronounced egotism leads at times to a persecution complex and makes him dream of...
(The entire section is 766 words.)