Dr. Peter Kien
Dr. Peter Kien (keen), a world-renowned sinologist. Kien is a forty-year-old recluse who wants to live only for his scholarly work in his private library of twenty-five thousand books. His life is completely regulated, and his library is cared for by his housekeeper Therese, whom he decides to marry in order to ensure the continuance of this good care. The marriage, however, changes this misogynist’s life into a nightmarish existence. In searching for his bankbook and will, Therese makes Kien’s life so unbearable that he is forced to leave his home and library. Kien is rescued by Benedikt Pfaff, who in turn imprisons Kien and brutalizes him. Eventually, Kien’s brother George comes from Paris to rescue him. George reestablishes the original order of Peter’s life by removing Therese and Benedikt from his home and restoring his library. Believing that everyone is satisfied, George returns to Paris. At this point, however, Peter Kien has a complete breakdown. Fantasizing that all (including his books) are plotting against him, Peter sets fire to his library and hurls himself onto the flaming pyre.
Therese Krumbholz (teh-RAY-zeh KREWM-hohlts), Peter Kien’s housekeeper, a fifty-six-year-old unmarried woman who is seeking material wealth and security for her old age. Mistakenly believing that Peter Kien has considerable wealth, she sets out to obtain his bankbook and to become his sole heir after they are married. Her vicious greed and her merciless babbling of unbearable clichés...
(The entire section is 663 words.)