Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


T, a dedicated Hungarian Communist. A man in his fifties, he has fought all of his life for a just society. Rejecting the hierarchical system of his family, he risked his life to fight the Nazis, only to be distrusted by his supposed Soviet brothers. In the postwar reorganization, during the brief uprising crushed by the Soviets, and in the following decades, he has gained influence only to lose it because of his intellectual honesty. He has suffered arrest, imprisonment, and torture, and at last been released, only to be once again confined. At the beginning of the novel, he is freed from a mental institution but no longer feels at home in the outside world.

T’s wife

T’s wife, a translator. Seventeen years younger than T, she is small and almost childlike, a bright, exuberant creature. During twenty years of marriage to him, she has kept her capacity for joy and hope. When T becomes incapable of giving himself to her emotionally, however, she leaves him for a young lover.


Dani, T’s younger brother. A dark-bearded, charming man, he has always been mercurial, infatuated with danger but essentially selfish, willing to inform on others, even his brother, to save himself. When his girlfriend blocks his attempt to escape to the West, in frustration he turns on her, killing her and then eventually hanging himself.


Teri, Dani’s girlfriend. A girl with a fair complexion, an appealing mouth, and an insatiable sexual appetite, she is unprincipled and disloyal. Because she cannot bear to lose her power over Dani, she informs on him. He chokes her to death.


(The entire section is 687 words.)

The Loser The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

T and the other Hungarian Communists, like Konrád himself, had hoped for a new freedom which would enable people of all classes to assert their individual wills, as T’s prosperous parents and grandparents, and others of their class, had been able to do in a hierarchical society. They were disillusioned to discover that the Communist society in practice allowed freedom to no one. The characters in this novel are divided between those who insist on being themselves, even in a repressive society, and those who submerge their personalities and structure their utterances, even their thoughts, in order to seem like everyone else.

T is by nature an intellectual, a person who examines every event and every theory in the light of reason. His willingness to envision change makes him a revolutionary; when the new society develops, however, based on unthinking acceptance of simplistic theories and the practice based upon them, T has no place in it. Throughout the novel, T contrasts himself with those who choose not to question, such as the director of the asylum, and the academics who would teach him how to succeed without doing any significant thinking. T cannot surrender his mind, even to preserve his physical self. Unfortunately, as he lives more and more in the mind, he loses the capacity to live in the heart, and thus his marriage is the final sacrifice to a society that has driven its brightest members into conformity or into themselves.


(The entire section is 578 words.)