The reader of Voices in Time finds out comparatively little about the constructor of the narrative, John Wellfleet. He acts as the bridge between the generations, as a man who recalls what Montreal and the rest of the world was like before the Destructions, and as a kind of conscience for the guilt and responsibility of the generation who finally brought about the end of civilization and the death of billions of human beings.
The central figure is Conrad Dehmel, named after Joseph Conrad, the author of Heart of Darkness (1902), and Richard Dehmel, the German Romantic poet. Conrad Dehmel combines the tragic fate of German Romanticism, which could be said to lie behind both Nazism and militarism, and man’s inherent capacity for evil. His ill-fated love for a Jewish woman and his desire to work for the downfall of Hitler involve him in a web of deceit and destruction from which there is no escape except through the purgatory of Belsen. He is forced to acknowledge that intelligent and rational men are the last to recognize the bared teeth of the human ape, which is why Hitler’s rise to power was not prevented by the educated elite of Germany. Under torture, he reveals the whereabouts of his fiancee and her father, a betrayal that haunts him for the rest of his life. This is the reason he consents to go on television with Timothy, for he recognizes the same forces at work in the FLQ and the October Crisis of 1970. Not long before he is...
(The entire section is 586 words.)