Manuel (mahn-WEHL), a sound engineer in the film industry when the novel opens. He is a handsome, jovial, and idealistic young man whose political convictions have led him to join the Communist Party. When the Spanish Civil War breaks out, he becomes a soldier in the Republican army, and because of his leadership qualities, he quickly climbs through the ranks to become a high-ranking officer. Generous and outgoing at the outset of the novel, Manuel becomes increasingly detached as the realities of command force him to make brutal and occasionally inhuman decisions in the name of efficiency. An able and courageous commander at the novel’s end, he has lost some of his humanity.
Colonel Magnin (mah-NYEEN), a French aviator, volunteer for the Spanish Republic, and head of the Republic’s International Squadron. Tall, mustachioed, and philosophical by nature, Magnin is a shrewd observer of people and an excellent judge of character. He combines a passion for flying with an idealistic devotion to the cause of the Republic and the principles of individual liberty and social justice for which it stands. Although it is his responsibility to mold a motley assortment of foreign volunteers and mercenaries into an effective fighting force, he is skeptical of those like the communists who are obsessed with discipline.
Garcia (gahr-SEE-ah), the head of the Spanish intelligence service. He is a corpulent, robust, and good-natured man who, in Magnin’s view, gives the impression of being a wealthy landowner. An anthropologist before the war and a famous intellectual, Garcia is a man of extraordinary culture and learning. As the author’s principal mouthpiece within the novel, Garcia provides an overview of the meaning of the struggle, analyzes the role of the intellectual in revolutionary politics, and addresses with great insight the metaphysical and moral quandaries inevitably brought by war.
Captain Hernandez (ehr-NAHN-dehs), a career army officer who...
(The entire section is 906 words.)