Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Stefan Viziru

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

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

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

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...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

While Mircea Eliade on several occasions cautioned readers against identifying him with Stefan, it is clear that the hero’s experiences at many points parallel those of the author. Eliade was interned in 1938 for Guardist associations, he went to London in 1940 on government service and experienced the blitz, he spent 1942 through 1945 in Lisbon, his wife died in 1944, and he became a refugee in Paris after the war. More important, Stefan’s apolitical nature, his longing to escape history and experience another dimension of time, his agony over Romania’s fate, his optimistic faith that for the individual “an exit exits,” and his certainty that life has a transhistorical meaning were Eliade’s as well. Moreover, several characters are modeled on persons of the author’s acquaintance. Nevertheless, Eliade felt free to invent most of their biographies, even as he did that of Stefan.

The novel is populated with a large cast of finely drawn characters who play important, supporting roles in the labyrinthine plot and whose own stories are engrossing in themselves. Vadastra, whom Eliade took from an earlier, aborted novel, is one of several humorous personages. His vanity and bombast, his grandiose ambitions, his pitiful efforts to impress others, his bungling attempts to gain wealth and power, capped with his surprising “return from the dead” as an apparently successful secret agent, mark him as an archetypal trickster. His father, Gheorghe...

(The entire section is 447 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Calinescu, Matei. “Between History and Paradise: Initiation Trials,” in Journal of Religion. LIX, no. 2 (1978), pp. 218-223.

Calinescu, Matei. “The Disguises of Miracle: Notes on Mircea Eliade’s Fiction,” in World Literature Today. LII (Autumn, 1978), pp. 558-564.

Girardot, Norman, and Mac Linscott Ricketts, eds. Imagination and Meaning: The Scholarly and Literary Worlds of Mircea Eliade, 1982.

Kitagawa, Joseph, and Charles H. Long, eds. Myths and Symbols: Studies in Honor of Mircea Eliade, 1969.

Ricketts, Mac Linscott. “Fate in The Forbidden Forest,” in Dialogue. VIII (1982), pp. 101-119.