Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Eduard “Sam” Scham

Eduard “Sam” Scham, a railway official, poet, and world traveler. The character of Eduard is seen through the eyes of his son, Andi; the perceptions are necessarily subjective and biased. What comes through is a portrait of an eccentric, an incorrigible dreamer, and a man of many talents. He is a poet and a philosopher whose abilities are unfulfilled and squandered, partly because of his circumstances and his Jewish background, but partly because of his several character flaws. A railroad inspector, he is drawn to his profession by an insatiable urge to travel, which, in turn, reveals a basic instability and restlessness. As a Jew, he is persecuted, at first subtly but later, during World War II, openly. He also is a drunkard, a man who cannot hold on to steady relationships, whether with family members or with friends. Eduard’s aloofness to Andi is especially revealing. Despite his obvious love for his son, he frequently calls him “young man,” as if he were a stranger. Eduard also is aloof from his wife, without being unfaithful. An amateur philosopher, he adopts a fatalistic point of view that makes it somewhat easier for him to accept his final tragic fate. He lives his life as a free spirit, as a misplaced wanderer from some mysterious, exotic land. Even though he fades away into nothingness in the pogrom, he remains alive forever in his son’s memory and, even more poignantly, in his imagination.

Maria Scham...

(The entire section is 605 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Although the novel is narrated by Andi, relating his childhood impressions, the true protagonist is his father, Eduard. Eduard occupies the central position in the rather diffused plot, and he is constantly on his son’s mind, an eccentric and incorrigible dreamer, a frustrated genius, a poet, a philosopher, a drunkard, a proud squanderer of his many gifts, a misplaced wanderer from some mysterious, exotic land. In real life, Eduard is a railroad inspector, as if to symbolize one of his constant urges—to disappear every now and then, to travel without any apparent goal or direction and without the knowledge of his family. (It was this urge which inspired him to write his magnum opus, A Railroad, Bus, and Airline Schedule, into which he infused his considerable poetic talent.) Eduard is always reaching for the stars, desiring the unattainable and setting his goals higher and higher; the more unlikely the achievement, the better. An amateur philosopher, he adopts a fatalistic point of view. In his words, “There are people who are born to be unhappy and to make others unhappy, who are the victims of celestial intrigues incomprehensible to us....I look at myself in the role forced on me by the heavens and by fate, conscious of my role at all times yet at the same time unable to resist it with the force of logic or will.”

Eduard’s relationship with his family is quite vague and similarly fatalistic. He acts as though he could live without them, yet he always returns...

(The entire section is 609 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Czarny, Norbert. “Imaginary-Real Lives: On Danilo Ki,” in Cross-Currents. III (1984), pp. 279-284.

Mihailovich, Vasa D. “Serbian Fiction 1965,” in Books Abroad. XL (1966), pp. 281-283.

Pawel, Ernst. “Garden, Ashes,” in The Nation. CCVII (September 16, 1978), p. 246.

White, Edmund. “Danilo Ki: The Obligations of Form,” in Southwest Review. LXXI (Summer, 1986), pp. 363-377.