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...
(The entire section is 1015 words.)