Characters Discussed

Henry Carr

Henry Carr, an elegantly attired character who appears both as a very old man and as his youthful self. The character is modeled on a minor official by the same name who was in the English consulate in Switzerland during the turbulent years of World War I. The events of the play mirror history. As young Carr, this character is involved in a quarrel with James Joyce over money for clothes in a production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, in which Joyce is closely involved. As an old man, Carr narrates the events of the time, and it is his erratic recall of events through which the playwright filters the events of the play, including a fictional meeting in the Zurich library among Tristan Tzara, James Joyce, and Vladimir Ilich Lenin.

James Joyce

James Joyce, an inelegant dresser, thirty-six years old, who mixes jackets and trousers from two different suits. At work in the Zurich library on his famous novel Ulysses, he comes in conflict with Tzara and Lenin on the nature of art. As the play’s raisonneur, he argues that art is its own excuse for being and that whatever meaning is to be found in history is what art makes of it. He uses Homer’s poems about the Trojan War to illustrate his theory that art re-creates the shards of history into a “corpse that will dance for some time yet and leave the world precisely as it finds it.”

Tristan Tzara...

(The entire section is 561 words.)

Henry Carr

The play's main character, Carr, is a minor British government official assigned to Zurich during the First World War. The action of the play...

(The entire section is 270 words.)

James Joyce

Carr's decidedly subjective opinion of Joyce is sometimes contradictory but usually shows the effects of Carr's anger over the litigation...

(The entire section is 278 words.)

Tristan Tzara

A poet who created Dada—a nihilistic movement in art and literature in the early part of the twentieth century—Tzara claims he is "the...

(The entire section is 241 words.)

Other Characters

Bennett, Carr's manservant, has"quite a weighty presence." When he relates the current news to his employer, he often...

(The entire section is 419 words.)