Franz Horn, a middle-aged business executive in the Chemnitz Denture corporation. An ineffectual but highly conscientious bureaucrat, he is in charge of the company’s personnel, taxes, and properties. He possesses a photographic memory, in which he documents the alcoholic shortcomings of his most serious rival, Liszt. Most of the novel consists of a letter—with nineteen postscripts—to Liszt, in which he reveals his authentic feelings of disgust toward him. A lonely and suicidal but highly sensitive man, Horn had planned to abandon the company and join its primary rival, Stierle Dentures, but Stierle’s suicide and subsequent events stopped him. Horn is pathologically suspicious of Liszt and is torn between admiration for his great talents and repulsion at his crass manipulation of his underlings. He decides at the novel’s conclusion not to send the letter and departs, after downing three bottles of wine, for his mother’s name-day celebration.
Arthur Thiele (TEE-leh), the middle-aged head of the Chemnitz Denture and Fin Star corporation. Wealthy, self-reliant, and handsome, Thiele is the envy of both Horn and Liszt. He is completely relaxed in the world and enjoys all the privileges his wealth offers him. He saves Horn’s life after Horn’s suicide attempt yet keeps him employed. He is an inveterate womanizer and performs every action with an ease and assurance that drives Horn to despair. Wherever he goes, he is at center stage because of his charisma.
Dr. Horst Liszt
Dr. Horst Liszt (lihst), a tall, attractive, brilliant alcoholic whose fall within the company is inevitable. Liszt is the major rival of Horn, yet he is also his closest friend. He is well dressed and highly articulate but at heart a manipulative seeker of power and privilege. Liszt...
(The entire section is 774 words.)