Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Konwicki (kohn-WIHTS-kih), the narrator. Konwicki is a famous middle-aged writer living in the Polish capital. Like the actual Tadeusz Konwicki, the narrator is an astute observer of the disintegration of Polish culture and its near-total (in this grim fantasy) subjugation to the Russian giant to its east. Unlike the defiant author, however, the fictional Konwicki is, in his own eyes, an aging, largely passive figure whose best work quite likely is behind him. He abhors the suffocating Russian influence and bemoans the ineffectuality that marks Polish institutions, but he is unsure what part he can or should play in protesting conditions. Thus, when revolutionary friends give him the honor of martyring himself (by burning himself to death) for the cause, his principal reaction is indecision. The very structure of his day-long odyssey around Warsaw (circular and rambling), which composes the bulk of the novel, reflects his indecisiveness, which results not only from cowardice and cynicism (can his martyrdom possibly make any difference?) but also hope. If Konwicki did not have hope that his martyrdom might make some genuine difference, his decision would be an easy one: He would decline the honor. His decision at the end, to go through with the self-immolation, is the best clue to Konwicki’s character.


Hubert, a Polish dissident. For his visit to Konwicki, Hubert dresses in his best suit and sports a cane and a “sinister-looking” briefcase. Once, in the past, Hubert had...

(The entire section is 643 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Although the Konwicki character of A Minor Apocalypse bears a striking resemblance to the novelist, author and narrator are not the same. If Konwicki did at one time collaborate with the Polish Stalinist state in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s he has also had a much more successful career in opposition than his namesake in the novel. After 1954, the novelist turned against the government and authored several significant novels and directed several important films. While he may feel the weariness of his narrator and rue the seeming futility of Polish history, his art has been steadfastly witty and energetic—hardly the sign of an exhausted talent.

A Minor Apocalypse abounds in interesting characters. Hubert and Rysio for example, present the bizarre plan for Konwicki’s sacrifice in rational, well-articulated terms. They are men in the business of dissidence. Even though Konwicki wants to discount what they say, he recognizes the impulse behind their extremism. They want to galvanize a country slipping away into acquiescence to the status quo. Moreover, Konwicki realizes that something is afoot (perhaps a change in the Zeitgeist?) when Comrade Kobialka strips on nationwide television and address Party members as Comrade Swine. The totalitarian system is itself victimized by an unreality that some of its members occasionally acknowledge.

It is extraordinary how much good fellow-feeling Poles on opposite sides of the...

(The entire section is 595 words.)