Milo Hrma (MEE-lohsh HUHR-mah), the narrator, an apprentice train dispatcher. Inexperienced and innocent at the age of twenty-two, Milo views the bizarre and brutal events around him with morally noncommittal curiosity. Following his first sexual encounter, which is a failure, he attempts suicide. Although rescued, he remains preoccupied by doubts regarding his manhood until drawn into a plot to blow up a Nazi ammunition train. In acting deliberately, he finds the answer to his persistent question, “Am I a man?”
Ladislav Hubika, (hew-BIHCH-keh), the senior dispatcher. Hubika, whose name means “nice lips,” draws Milo’ envy and admiration with his success with women. He is under investigation for imprinting all the station’s rubber stamps on the bare buttocks of the female telegraphist late one night. A fearless nonconformist, he is a key figure in the plot to blow up the munitions train.
Lánsk , the stationmaster. Lánsk takes great pride in his Venetian armchair, Persian carpet, and marble clock. Hot-tempered and exacting as a boss and as a husband, he dissipates his rages by bellowing into a heating vent. Although careful to conform outwardly to Nazi rule, he symbolically protests the brutal takeover of neighboring Poland by killing all of his Nuremberg pigeons (a German breed) and replacing them with Polish silver-points....
(The entire section is 629 words.)