Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Joachim von Pasenow

Joachim von Pasenow (yoh-AH-khihm fon PAH-zeh-noh), a young German lieutenant who feels comfortable only in a uniform. He has odd ideas about his wife as a kind of madonna. By the end of World War I, he has become a major in the German army.


Bertrand, Joachim’s friend. He leaves the army to become a businessman. He becomes Esch’s enemy. He hires agents to provoke Martin, the Socialist, into trouble with the authorities.

Herr von Pasenow

Herr von Pasenow, Joachim’s father, a funny, fat old man who embarrasses his son. He wants Joachim to marry Elisabeth and retire from the army to manage the family estates.


Ruzena (rew-ZEH-nah), a sensitive Bohemian girl who becomes Joachim von Pasenow’s mistress. She shoots Bertrand, wounding him in the arm, when she thinks he is coming between her and her lover.


Elisabeth, Joachim von Pasenow’s wife.


Martin, a Socialist. Bertrand has him harassed by the police and by hired baiters.


Esch (ehsh), a German bookkeeper who becomes a theatrical manager and, later, a newspaperman. During a workers’ revolt in 1918, he is murdered by Huguenau, who stabs him with a bayonet.

Frau Hentjen

Frau Hentjen (HEHNT-yehn), a restaurant keeper. She becomes Esch’s mistress and, later, his wife. She is raped by Huguenau shortly before he murders her husband.

Helmuth von Pasenow

Helmuth von Pasenow (HEHL-mewt), Joachim’s brother, killed in a duel.


Korn, a customs inspector. He is Esch’s friend and landlord.


Lohberg, a tobacconist and Esch’s friend.

Erna Korn

Erna Korn, the customs inspector’s sister, desperate to be married.


Teltscher (TEHLT-shehr), a Hungarian knife thrower.


Ilona (ee-LOH-nah), a flashy blonde. She is Teltscher’s human target in his act.


Gernerth (GEHR-nehrt), a theatrical manager who becomes Esch’s partner.


Huguenau (HEW-geh-now), an Alsatian businessman who looks after himself and takes what he wants.


Marie, a Salvation Army girl attracted to a Talmudic Jew.


Hanna, a lawyer’s wife.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Cohn, Dorrit. “The Sleepwalkers”: Elucidations of Hermann Broch’s Trilogy. The Hague: Mouton, 1966. A close reading of Broch’s novels. Describes the mechanics of the text’s structure and pays special attention to the importance and meaning of narrators in the novels.

Dowden, Stephen D., ed. Hermann Broch: Literature, Philosophy, Politics: The Yale Broch Symposium 1986. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1988. The Sleepwalkers is specifically discussed in various articles. Each article is paired with a response.

Osterle, Heinz. “Hermann Broch, Die Schlafwandler: Revolution and Apocalypse.” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 86 (October, 1971): 946-958. Argues that the apocalyptic thrust of the novel carries a paradoxical political message of revolution. Useful for the general reader because it situates the novel in its philosophical and historical contexts. Also refers to other similarly apocalyptic novels of ideas.

Schlant, Ernestine. Hermann Broch. Boston: Twayne, 1978. A basic and general introduction to Broch and his works that also provides a sound historical context for the novels. The chapter on the “Mechanics and Metaphysics of Sleepwalking” presents a good introduction to Broch’s philosophical and aesthetic project.

Ziolkowski, Theodore. “Hermann Broch: The Sleepwalkers.” In Dimensions of the Modern Novel. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1969. Provides useful background on Broch’s philosophical attitudes and how they are transformed into this theoretical and essayistic novel. Argues that Broch’s novel, in its rigorous execution, is the logical end point of the modernist consciousness already put forward by Rainer Maria Rilke and Franz Kafka in their modernist novels.