Maniac, a shabbily dressed man with wild hair, thin spectacles, and a goatee. The Maniac is an inventive and unpredictable subversive who has been arrested twelve times for illegal impersonations. His disguises and personae include a magistrate, Professor Marco Maria Malpiero, and—perhaps his true identity—Paulo Davidovitch Gandolpho, Prose Pimpernel of the Permanent Revolution and sports editor of Lotta Continua, a Jewish conspiracy newspaper. The Maniac’s revolutionary fervor is grounded in a deep knowledge of fields as diverse as railroads, grammar, explosives, and psychology. He is not only a disciple of Sigmund Freud but also proud to be a certified psychotic. His manner is light and cheerful, suffused with delightful mimicry and a sharply sardonic wit. His hobby is the theater, and in the police station he is at once scenarist, actor, and audience, alternately manipulating, observing, and cooperating with the police buffoons. He chatters endlessly and distractingly but is capable of stating the truth in boldly direct terms: He is both jester and seer, a wise fool. When the discussion turns to political theory, the Maniac becomes didactic and dogmatic, a seemingly disembodied voice of communist ideology. In his subtle way, he is a moral catalyst, forcing the policemen to expose the truth about the anarchist’s death and maneuvering Felleti into an inescapable moral dilemma. The Maniac does not offer to sacrifice his own...
(The entire section is 586 words.)