Eduard Sam, a retired railroad official in Voivodina, the northern part of Yugoslavia occupied by the Germans and Hungarians in World War II. He is the only character on whom the author dwells. As a Jew, Sam is subjected to persecution, first obliquely, then openly, until he perishes somewhere in a concentration camp. The story of his tragic fate is told by the narrator, presumably the author himself. Sam is a middle-aged man, of slight build and high-strung disposition, extremely intelligent but often distraught and absentminded. His ties with his family and people around him are rather tenuous, although there is no doubt that he loves his family. Even though he once worked in a practical and exact profession, he is basically impractical and seemingly incapable of taking care of his family, despite his best efforts. The only remnant of his earlier profession is a railroad schedule, revealing a subconscious attempt on his part to bring some order into the chaotic life surrounding him. He hopes to publish this railroad schedule as a book, along with a book of his poetry, which again demonstrates that he is basically a dreamer and an eccentric. Throughout the novel, he seems to fail to grasp the gravity of situations and the ubiquitous danger in which he and many others around him find themselves. His tendency toward philosophizing renders him a grotesque Don Quixote trying desperately to stop the inexorable whirl of the windmill set in...
(The entire section is 464 words.)