Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Daniel Smiricky

Daniel Smiricky (SMIH-rzhihts-kee), a forty-eight-year-old Czechoslovakian writer employed as a literature professor at Edenvale College in Toronto. Often preoccupied with memories of his lost youth and lost homeland, Smiricky lives the pains of the exile: grief, social discomfort, linguistic disorientation, and political fear. Self-absorbed and dependent on women but without one, Smiricky struggles to find a professional, social, and political place for himself in Western culture. His journeys through the academic, literary, and émigré communities provide a spectrum of ideologies, ethics, and emotions that counterpoint and contextualize his own views. With the acquisition of a beautiful nineteen-year-old girlfriend, Irene, he seems to be quieting the ghosts of his wartime past and starting life anew.

Irene Svensson

Irene Svensson, an affluent student at Edenvale College. A voluptuous blonde with a Cadillac, Irene becomes Smiricky’s lover and accompanies him to Paris during reading week. She asserts that she intends to marry him.

Larry Hakim

Larry Hakim (hah-KEEM), a sophomore in Smiricky’s American literature class. Intensely ideological, this Iranian youth engages his professor in several heated discussions of the political implications of the works of Joseph Conrad and William Faulkner. Hakim’s rabid...

(The entire section is 513 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

In many ways, the life of the narrator of The Engineer of Human Souls resembles that of his creator, Josef kvorecký. kvorecký also survived the German Reich protectorate, earned a Ph.D. after the war, and became a nationally renowned but officially banned writer. Relocated in Toronto after the Soviet invasion of August 21, 1968, kvorecký became a literature professor at Erindale College, University of Toronto, and an active member of the Czech emigre community. His lifelong interests in swing music, cinema,mystery novels, and world literature are also shared by his protagonist. Smiricky’s personality, however, seems to more closely resemble that of T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock. Aging, no longer easily set on fire, self-absorbed, and plagued by vestigial fears, Smiricky is a man nearly drowning in his own memories. By his own estimation, he is prone to sentimentality, full of grief, and dependent on women. He is not above consciously exaggerating both the “heroic connotations” of his war experiences and the dangers of his writing activities to add allure to his image.

Several groups of characters from Smiricky’s past and present are shown through his consciousness. Many of those with whom he grew up in Kostelec are now dead, irretrievably lost and painfully unforgotten, and they haunt him. A large part of Smiricky’s story is written by and for these dead. Re-creating their shared moments of love, humor, friendship, bravery, and cowardice,...

(The entire section is 550 words.)