Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Tadeusz Konwicki

Tadeusz Konwicki (tah-DAY-uhsh kohn-WIHTS-kih), a Polish writer. He is a middle-aged man with a somewhat cynical outlook on life. On the day before Christmas, he is standing in a line outside a jewelry store in Warsaw waiting for a shipment of goods to arrive from the Soviet Union. The situation prompts his meeting a number of other people with whom he has conversations, allowing his opinions and views on a wide range of subjects to be expressed.

Tadeusz Kojran

Tadeusz Kojran (KOY-rahn), a man standing behind Konwicki in the line outside the jewelry store. In 1951, he followed Konwicki for three weeks with the intention of shooting him. He will be taking a trip to America.


Duszek (DEW-shehk), another man waiting in line, physically large and with an outgoing personality. He loves to drink and is responsible for getting several of the men in line to a local drinking place. He also is prone to announcing generalizations about the Polish national character. He guarded Kojran in jail in 1952.

Zygmunt Mineyko

Zygmunt Mineyko (mi-NEE-koh), a young revolutionary from the 1860’s. He is evoked by Konwicki in an intense flashback during which Konwicki addresses him in the first person and...

(The entire section is 540 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The major character in the novel is Konwicki himself. As the narrator-protagonist, he indulges in reveries and philosophical musings that are interrupted by the pedestrian events involved in waiting in line in front of a store for goods that never arrive. The novel depicts the human mind shifting without explanation or transition from the real world to the world of imagination and speculation. Konwicki identifies with failed, historically authentic revolutionaries of the nineteenth century, and the cycle of defeat and thwarted ambitions colors his sense of himself and his sense of Poland. The historical dimension brings psychological depth to the narrator, for it justifies and explains his sense of futility and despair.

All aspects of the narrator’s life are brought under scrutiny. Perhaps most important are his politics. Like the failed revolutionary, he wonders if it was worth it. Political opposites can now be superficial friends, and there is no suggestion that anything more is desired or desirable. Politics are meaningless although unavoidable in Konwicki’s depiction of contemporary Poland. Konwicki’s writings are reconsidered. Kojran and Iwona are familiar with his books. Yet what difference does that make? Konwicki takes no pleasure in their recognition. Indeed, he says that he hates his own books and laments the inadequacy of language for true communication. So strong is his sense of man’s alienation from man that he no longer writes to communicate but only to ward off total nihilism through an existential act. His personal life is under scrutiny. There is no haste to return home on Christmas Eve, and he engages in adultery. Romance degenerates into lust, and his stirrings of desire for a woman blend with those imagined ones of a revolutionary a century ago. His nationalism is examined. He wonders why the critics label him a Polish writer. What is the source of one’s ethnic identity? Waiting in line provides the...

(The entire section is 793 words.)