Lafcadio Wluiki (laf-KAH-dee-oh lew-KEE), a charming nineteen-year-old, born a bastard, whose natural father turns out to be the dying Count Juste-Agénor de Baraglioul. Lafcadio is a free spirit, deliberately eschewing any kind of bond or constraint. His spirit of adventure and his obsession with the possibilities of his own nature lead him to test himself in a gamelike fashion, by pushing out of a speeding train, without any specific reason, Amédée Fleurissoire, whom he had never met before. This paradigmatic expression of the “gratuitous act” affects the lives of most of the characters. At the end, torn between conflicting tendencies, he tears away from Geneviève’s arms and seems ready to plunge into the unpredictable drifts of life.
Julius de Baraglioul
Julius de Baraglioul (zhew-LYEWS deh bah-rah-GLYEWL), a pompous, narrow-minded, pious writer of mediocre novels. He is Lafcadio’s half brother. His ultimate goal is to be elected to the French Academy. At one point, having realized that his writing system distorts reality, he undergoes an allegedly radical metamorphosis, sets up to attack logic and consistency, and conceives a young hero who will perform a “gratuitous act.” Faced with the reality of an unmotivated crime, namely Amédée’s murder, he refutes it with vehemence and is driven back to his old, narrow ideological system, his boldness surfacing only on paper. Through Julius, the author caricatures the figure of the novelist and calls into question the process of writing itself.
Juste-Agénor de Baraglioul
Juste-Agénor de Baraglioul (zhewst ah-gay-NOHR), a wealthy aristocrat, the father of Julius and Lafcadio. He never openly reveals that he is Lafcadio’s natural father, but he summons Lafcadio before dying and bequeaths him part of his fortune.
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