Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Andrei Donatovich Sinyavsky

Andrei Donatovich Sinyavsky (ahn-DRAY doh-NAH-toh-vihch sih-NYAV-skee), a writer later known under the pseudonym Abram Tertz. Brought up by a revolutionary father, Sinyavsky studied Russian literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His dedication to phantasmagoric literature flew in the face of the officially accepted Socialist Realism. Sinyavsky eventually had his work smuggled out of the country and published in the West under the pseudonym Abram Tertz. He is eventually arrested and imprisoned. After his release, he discovers that people have changed; they no longer live under the fear that was prevalent during Joseph Stalin’s time.

Donat Evgenievich Sinyavsky

Donat Evgenievich Sinyavsky (DOH-naht yehv-GEH-nih-yeh-vihch), the younger Sinyavsky’s father. A love of hunting and disdain for the petty details of everyday life (both remnants of his aristocratic heritage) combine with a strong will and fervent idealism to form this sincere atypical revolutionary. The elder Sinyavsky maintains genuine human compassion for individuals throughout the collectivization and maintains revolutionary idealism despite imprisonment. He participated in political agitation during the revolution, organized famine relief in the 1920’s, and eventually was...

(The entire section is 610 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Reality, in the traditional sense of events and people, plays a very secondary role in Sinyavsky’s autobiographical tale. Characters are not, for the most part, realistically developed, nor, apart from the narrator, do they have continuing roles throughout the narrative. Each major figure serves as the focal point of one of the “nights,” but their images are sometimes very diffuse. In “The House of Meetings,” in which Sinyavsky’s beloved wife visits him in the camp, she remains shadowy and remote for the reader. Helene, who plays an enormous role in Sinyavsky’s personal and moral development, is equally abstract: a symbol of purity, a damsel in distress, but not a living person.

Sinyavsky-Tertz, whose consciousness holds the whole together, is the only fully developed character. The narrative takes Sinyavsky’s life as the illegal Abram Tertz as its subject: how Sinyavsky became Tertz, who, incidentally, is listed as the sole author of the original Russian edition. Tertz is Sinyavsky’s Doppelganger, his fantasy double. Sinyavsky, physically unimpressive, walleyed, describes himself as “an honest intellectual, given to compromise and the solitary contemplation of life.” In contrast, Abram Tertz is the legendary hero of an underworld ballad about the thieves’ quarter in the Jewish section of Odessa, a criminal world with its own incorruptible code of honor. Tertz is everything Sinyavsky is not: thief, gambler, a cool,...

(The entire section is 508 words.)