Claude Vannec (klohd vah-NEHK), an ambitious young archaeologist. He sets out to explore the Royal Way in the jungles of Cambodia and to profit professionally and financially from his discoveries. Intense, impatient, and in revolt against the banality and conformity of bourgeois existence, Claude is also intent on affirming his own manhood on the journey. Obsessed with nonconformist, virile men, whom he wishes to emulate, Claude meditates on his father and grandfather and is drawn to Perken, whom he meets in a Djibouti brothel. It is Perken who shapes Claude’s ideas about women, sensuality, and, finally, the meaning of death. Under Perken’s influence, Claude comes to consider the journey less an archaeological mission than a voyage of self-discovery.
Perken (pehr-KAH[N]), an experienced, graying, Danish-German adventurer who accompanies Claude on his archaeological treasure hunt along the Royal Way. It is Perken who insists on continuing the journey into the jungle to seek out the Dutch adventurer’s former comrade, Grabot. Perken is an extraordinarily complex individual, combining energy, endurance, and a will of steel with an acute and flexible intelligence capable of understanding individuals and cultures very alien to him. This unique combination of qualities makes Perken a compelling and powerful figure. In the past, it had...
(The entire section is 491 words.)