Allesandro Giuliani dominates the novel, since it is his life he relates to Nicolo. Although a professor of aesthetics, Allesandro is not a typical academic. He rejects the traditional critical approach, claiming that critics “parse by intellect alone works that are great solely because of the spirit.” Drawn to art, Raphael’s portrait of Bindo Altoviti and Giorgione’s La Tempesta help illuminate his life. So, too, does nature— the seas, skies, and mountains. As a counterpoint, war also has its lures; as in everything else, Allesandro excels on the battlefield. Opposed to the twentieth century “isms” of communism, fascism, and nationalism, Allesandro’s polestars are love and beauty.
The rest of the characters revolve around Allesandro, satellites to his world. Signore Giuliani, his father, is the great influence on Allesandro’s life—his mother is almost absent from Allesandro’s story—but he is a shadowy and somewhat symbolic figure who represents family, love, and stability in a universe torn by war. Luciana, Allesandro’s sister, also remains a secondary figure; she too is an undeveloped character, of greater importance to Allesandro than to the reader.
Even Ariane remains obscure. When they meet in the hospital, she literally sits in the shadows, remaining nameless. She becomes the great love of Allesandro’s life, and he seeks her in both art and life until he finds her. Yet the reader is left with little...
(The entire section is 520 words.)