The reader is given information about several of the characters, including many minor ones (such as Nusa’s brother Bojan, who appeared in 1915 in a Marseille police file under the false name issued to G. on the forged passport obtained from the British Foreign Office), but the only character who matters profoundly is G. himself. Everyone else is, as it were, simply a vector that intersects with and deflects the path of G.’s Iife.
In another sense, however, the real “hero” of this novel is the narrator, whose voice insistently interrupts the narrative to discourse on the poetics and aesthetics of the novel, on the course of European history both contemporaneous with the action and distant from it, and on the problems of representing in language the lived experience of a human consciousness. The narrator is at once assertive, knowledgeable, and authoritative, and strangely vulnerable, confused, unsure of the progress of his own narrative.
There is, however, yet a third “character” in this novel, one that possesses none of the self-conscious sophistication of the narrator, still less the implacable will of G. What emerges with a force and a determinate shape all its own is the march of modern European history, gathering momentum through the fervor of the Italian Risorgimento up to the nationalist rebellions of the Slavic peoples that will provide the proximate cause of World War I. G. is not only about the titular hero and his amorous adventures in the opening years of the twentieth century; it is, and perhaps more powerfully, about the emergence of historical forces and movements which will rip apart the last vestiges of the ancient regime in Europe and open up, if only briefly, the road to Socialist emancipation. How history unfolds, in a progressively coherent pattern visible only at those moments when it has crystallized into global trends that dominate all action and perception, this is the authentic subject of G. The novel portrays the emergence of the modern world in the conflagration of interimperialist war.