The House on the Embankment Characters

Yuri Trifonov

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Vadim Alexandrovich Glebov

Vadim Alexandrovich Glebov (vah-DIHM ah-lehk-SAN-droh-vihch GLEH-bov), a literary critic whose life has been defined by envy, anger, and caution. He avoids taking firm stands on any issue until the last possible moment, avoids contradicting people, and carefully nurtures his relationships without growing too close, all of which result in his ability to fit in with practically any circle of people without actually committing himself to being a part of any one group exclusively. As a boy, he enjoyed special authority among his friends because his mother worked at a cinema to which he could take his friends without paying. That authority vanished when Lev Shulepnikov moved to the neighborhood because Lev owned a film projector. Glebov eventually enters an institute to study literature, later becoming the lover of Sonya Ganchuk, his adviser’s daughter. When an attempt is made to oust his adviser, Glebov does not rise to his defense, which in essence is an act of betrayal. Shortly thereafter, he abandons Sonya. By the end of his career, he is a well-ensconced establishment figure in literary circles, even having the uncommon privilege of being allowed to travel abroad as part of his duties.

Lev Mikhailovich Shulepnikov

Lev Mikhailovich Shulepnikov (mih-KHAH-ih-loh-vihch shew-LEHP-nih-kov), or Shulepa (shew-LEH-pah), a childhood friend of Glebov and the chief object of Glebov’s childhood envy. Arrogant and bold because of his stepfather’s influence, he owns...

(The entire section is 700 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Glebov is an individual who uses up his vitality achieving what he wants but then is too tired to enjoy it. He attends international literary congresses and has a dacha. The reader assumes that his wife, Marina, was once the student activist Marina Krasnikova, “a loud girl in a perpetual state of excitement,” not unlike Glebov’s daughter, Margot. Glebov changes from a timid, resentful child into a short-tempered, outwardly successful man. Along the way, he loses his integrity. He misses the opportunity to confront the past and himself with honesty. Although Glebov has some sympathy for others (he feels sorry for the Bychkovs) and a conscience, he rationalizes, fails to see connections, and conveniently forgets. He tells himself that Bear and Manyunya were “bad boys” and that nothing “very terrible” happened to them. Later, he rationalizes his semi-betrayal of Ganchuk by convincing himself that Ganchuk once behaved ruthlessly and that he cannot help him anyway.

As a child, Glebov lived in an atmosphere of anxiety. His father, whose motto was “Don’t stick your head out,” hid his fear under glib humor: “He seemed to feel suffocated as though by some ancient traumatic fear.” Glebov’s once understandable fear and resentment become a justification for opportunism and a lack of moral courage. Glebov does not crave power as much as he desires security, success, and genteel comfort. (He loves the old books and carpets in Ganchuk’s study.) Glebov is dishonest with himself, about his motives and the harm to others that results. He does not consciously connect the beginning of his physical desire for Sonya with his desire for the Ganchuks’ dacha in Bruskovo. When the Ganchuk relationship becomes a hindrance, he loses his desire for her and...

(The entire section is 724 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Eberstadt, Fernanda. “Out of the Drawer and into the West,” in Commentary. CXXIX (July, 1985), pp. 36-44.

Hosking, Geoffrey. “Yuri Trifonov,” in Beyond Socialist Realism, 1980.

McLaughlin, Sigrid. “Jurij Trifonov’s House on the Embankment: Narration and Meaning,” in Slavic and East European Journal. XXVI, no. 4 (1982), pp. 419-433.

Pankin, B. “A Circle or a Spiral? On Iurii Trifonov’s Novels,” in Soviet Studies in Literature. XIV (Fall, 1978), pp. 65-100.