Characters Discussed

Vladimir (Vlad) Samsonov

Vladimir (Vlad) Samsonov, a Russian youth. Vlad is, for the most part, modeled on the author and is the main character. At the beginning of this coming-of-age story, he is a small Jewish boy growing up in the Moscow suburb of Sokolniki. He becomes aware, early in life, of his background and of the resulting disadvantages. He spends his life trying to adjust to his precarious position while holding on to his tenuous yet deep-rooted family ties. As a schoolboy, he merges his individuality with the collective and renounces his dissident father, a concentration camp convict. Later, he is forced to leave home and his mother, who is surprisingly glad to get rid of him and whom he never forgives for that. Vlad finds love and support in his grandfather Saviely, which unfortunately does not prevent him from spending long years wandering and searching for his true self. In his life as a delinquent, sleeping in railroad stations and shantytowns and serving time in jail, reformatories, and juvenile detention centers, two things keep Vlad alive: love for books and the goodness of some of his fellow tramps. Although several times he is on the verge of giving up in despair and committing suicide, he survives primarily because of his urge to be a poet and because of his constant thinking of home, to which he wants to return in triumph. He also benefits from his ability to adapt quickly and painlessly to new situations, from being mature for his age, and from some qualities that make others, especially his peers, like him and want to help him (most of them affectionately call him “kid”). Prone to falling in love, which often leads to misfortune and disappointments, he finds little happiness with women, being always aware of a wall dividing him from others. This pronounced egotism leads at times to a persecution complex and makes him dream of...

(The entire section is 766 words.)

The Characters

As the protagonist of Farewell from Nowhere, Vlad is largely a portrait of Vladimir Maximov as a youth. The events in the story, although dramatized, correspond closely with the author’s experience; Maximov has stated in interviews that the novel is autobiographical. Since the book is essentially a coming-of-age chronicle, it is not surprising that its focus is somewhat narrow and that Vlad emerges as the only fully rounded character, indeed the only figure who is present throughout the entire novel. Other names and faces meander in and out of the narrative, some making an entrance and exit within the space of a single page. As such, they serve mainly to illuminate Vlad’s struggle toward maturity.

Vlad’s quest is really threefold: He must discover and establish his own identity, he must come to understand other individuals and human nature in general, and he must posit himself in relation to his nation and culture. He accomplishes this through his interaction with the other characters. Vlad’s experience of his father, though limited, is a source of both his outspoken political nature and his individualism. Counterbalancing Alexei is Vlad’s mother, Fedosya, who bitterly views her husband’s dissident activity as merely an invitation to trouble. Uncle Mitya, Fedosya’s brother, echoes this sentiment, warning that books can lead one astray and that “Life’s much easier if you keep going steady and don’t stick your neck out.” Mitya...

(The entire section is 486 words.)


Library Journal. Review. CIV (August, 1979), p. 1590.

Listener. Review. C (November 30, 1978), p. 734.

New Statesman. Review. XCVI (November 17, 1978), p. 665.

Observer. Review. November 12, 1978, p. 35.

Publishers Weekly. Review. CCXV (April 30, 1979), p. 173.