Stefan Viziru (shteh-FAHN vee-ZEE-rew), a tall, slender but sturdy, and handsome thirty-four-year-old political economist. He earned his doctorate in political science in Paris and is working for the Romanian Ministry of National Economy. Although happily married, with a young child, he is obsessed with his entrapment in time. He tries unsuccessfully to use his talents as a painter to project himself into cosmic time. He experiences cosmic time when he meets his ideal love, Ileana, in the Forest of Baneasa, the setting of his childhood; he spends the remainder of the novel searching for Ileana so he can reenact that timeless moment of bliss. He finally encounters Ileana in a forest near Paris, where they prepare to enter cosmic time together, through death.
Ioana Viziru (YWAHN-ah), the twenty-six-year-old wife of Stefan. Beautiful, intelligent in practical ways, and utterly devoted to her husband, she cannot understand his fixation with the burden of time. An excellent wife and mother, she dies with her baby Razvan during a bombing raid.
Ileana Sideri (eel-YAH-nah see-DEH-ree), a beautiful, tall, dark-haired woman in her twenties who falls in love with Stefan. Although she initially mistakes him for the famous author Ciru Partenie, they nevertheless have a brief but passionate affair. He then leaves her even though she begs him to stay; they meet later in Portugal, where they undergo another painful separation. He spends the remainder of the novel searching for her as the embodiment of ideal love. They enter into a final union, both actual and mystical, in the concluding scene of the book.
Petre Biris (PEH-treh bee-REEZ), an indigent, witty, and tubercular professor of philosophy and Stefan’s closest friend and confidant. He is preoccupied with the higher concerns of philosophy, particularly those of an existential nature, and considers himself a devoted disciple of Martin Heidegger. He is also the world authority on the works of Ciru Partenie, a famous Romanian novelist and dramatist whom he has never met. He, like Ileana, mistakes Stefan for Partenie but quickly indulges Stefan in his crisis over time, calling him a Proustian who cannot be an artist and a normal human being simultaneously. He loves to play intellectual games and falls passionately in love with the beautiful Catalina, but to no avail. He dies of tuberculosis.
Spiridon Vadastra (SPEE-ree-dohn vah-DAHS-trah), formerly known as Spiru Gheorghe Vasile (SPEE-rew GYOHR-geh vah-SEE-leh), a young, highly ambitious lawyer and one-eyed confidence man, an articulate and enormously clever picaresque character. He changed his name because he is ashamed of his destitute family background. He dreams of becoming Romania’s greatest pianist and writes outrageous letters to Henry Ford, hoping to curry his favor and become his country’s conduit to the American Dream. An obvious embodiment of Hermes the trickster, he supports whoever is in power, switching sides after the war from Communism to Anglo-American capitalism. Ostensibly killed in a bombing raid in London during the war, he reappears in Paris to spy on Stefan six years later.
Gheorghe Vasile, Vadastra’s father, a retired secondary school teacher of literature and history. A witty, pleasant drunk who misses nothing, he wants to preserve Romanian culture, especially from the barbarian Russians, so he hides his valuable books and art treasures in a tomb near his town just as the Russians are taking over.
Ciru Partenie (KEE-rew pahr-TEH-nee), a famous novelist and dramatist in his mid-thirties. Romania’s principal existential writer, he bears an uncanny resemblance to Stefan and is constantly mistaken for him. He is killed in a cross fire when mistaken for Stefan. The opportunist Bibicescu attempts to capitalize on his work by finishing his last play, The Wake.
Dan Bibicescu (bee-bee-CHEHS -kew), a brilliant,...
(The entire section is 1,545 words.)