Eberhard Starusch (AY-behr-hahrt SHTAH-rewsh), nicknamed Hardy. He is the grown-up Störtebeker, a character from The Tin Drum (1961) who had been the wartime leader of a Danzig youth gang, the Dusters. Starusch, at the time of this story, is a forty-year-old teacher of German and history. Despite the aggressive look of his forcefully protruding chin, Starusch, who describes himself as a liberal Marxist, is inclined to compromise. His life is boring and uncommitted. He even avoids the painful consequences of dental work through frequent doses of anesthetic. While having bridgework done, he daydreams about his life and carries on a discussion with his dentist. Starusch claims to have been an engineer, who, when rejected by his fiancée, returned to school with money she gave him in compensation and earned a teacher’s certificate. He discusses with the dentist his attempt to dissuade his student, Philipp Scherbaum, from acting on his values in a provocative way.
The dentist, a rationalist disciple of the Stoic Seneca who treats and counsels both Starusch and Philipp Scherbaum. He is a staunch supporter of science and reality. The anesthetizing television, which he uses to distract his patients, is the medium that prompts Starusch’s confused outpouring of present predicament, memory, and fantasy.
Philipp “Flip” Scherbaum
Philipp “Flip” Scherbaum (SHEHR-bowm), Starusch’s favorite student, a talented seventeen-year-old who is deeply concerned about acting in response to his values. An uncompromising idealist, Philipp is appalled by the napalming of civilians in Vietnam and decides to douse his dachshund, Max, with gasoline and to set him on fire in front of Hotel Kempinski’s café, which would be packed with cake-eating women. Starusch employs dialogue to delay and eventually to undermine Philipp’s action. Philipp begins to doubt...
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