The narrator, a sickly individual who is obsessed with reconstructing his friend Roithammer’s unfinished literary work. He is a middle-aged, highly intellectual, and introspective individual plagued by chronic lung infections. The narrator becomes so involved with his late friend’s life that he moves into his former apartment and seems to reach a similar point of suicidal despair.
Roithammer, the narrator’s friend who has committed suicide. Roithammer was a brilliant intellectual and scholar whose wide-ranging interests included philosophy, mathematics, architecture, and modern music. For a time, he had been a promising student and tutor at the University of Cambridge. He returned, however, to his family estate of Altensam but was stifled by the petty and provincial atmosphere of the surrounding community. This sensitive and highly introspective man was considered an eccentric by the local people. When Roithammer received an inheritance from his father, he planned to design and construct a special round building for his beloved sister. She died soon after its completion. Roithammer then spent a short time in England and returned to Altensam to write an account of his childhood and life in Altensam. He moved into a small attic apartment and worked on ever more succinct versions of his work. Unable to finish his work, he became increasingly depressed and committed suicide.
Höller, a taxidermist from whom Roithammer rents an attic apartment. He later rents it to the narrator and tells him about his friend’s last weeks of life.