Johan Nilsen Nagel
Johan Nilsen Nagel (YOH-hahn NIHL-sehn NAH-gehl), a mysterious traveler who stays for a few summer weeks in a small port on the west coast of Norway. He is rather short in stature, with broad shoulders and a strange expression in his eyes. Although he is only twenty-nine years old, his hair is beginning to turn gray. He seems nonchalant, but he is remarkably inquisitive and often behaves impulsively. When he has drunk too much, he is capable of seemingly endless tirades on many subjects. In spite of his extreme eccentricity and his belief that he is hopelessly alienated from the ordinary life of most people, he is capable of great kindness, generosity, and even bravery. Once, in fact, he risked death to save someone from drowning and received a medal, though in one conversation he says that he bought it. This tendency to tell different versions of the truth to different auditors is characteristic. Even his name is not certain: A former lover who visits him briefly in the town calls him Simonsen. Apparently he possesses a substantial inheritance, but he says on one occasion that he has very little money. He claims to be an agronomist by profession who has traveled widely in the world and has recently been in Finland, and he says that he is himself a Finn, but none of this may be true. He carries a violin case, but it contains only dirty linen, and he at first says that he cannot play the violin; later, he does play and is applauded by his audience. He falls...
(The entire section is 650 words.)