Last Updated on July 22, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 370
John Wellfleet, the first narrator, is seventy-six years old when the novel begins. Living in a rest home, he looks back at civilization before the bombs destroyed it. He currently lives in Metro, former Montreal. André Gervais approaches him with the request that he organize some newly discovered family papers from his family, which Gervais believes will shed important light on twentieth-century Canada. Occupying himself with this task gives John a new lease on life so that he leaves the home to join André’s community, but he dies not long after doing so.
Conrad Dehmel, the second narrator, was a German Egyptologist and historian. His narrative, one of the papers uncovered, covers his past in Nazi Germany. Conrad married young but soon divorced and then found true love with Hanna, who was Jewish. Dehmel led a double life in Germany; while holding an academic post, he publicly supported, and then joined, the Gestapo, all the while conducting espionage for the resistance and trying to help Hannah’s family escape. He was caught and imprisoned, but after the war he moved to North America, where he met and married Stephanie. Years later, Dehmel appeared on Timothy’s This Is Now show, which ultimately led to a mistaken viewer killing him.
André Gervais, a young French Canadian, tracks John down after finding his family’s papers. Gervais is the voice of optimism and the new generation.
Timothy Wellfleet, John’s cousin, hosted This Is Now, a 1970s television show. Timothy hypocritically criticized capitalist materialism while working in a commercial medium. When he brought Dehmel onto his show, he was unaware that Dehmel’s wife was his foster mother. After Dehmel was killed, he disappeared.
Esther Stahr, who produced This Is Now, was Timothy’s mistress. She rethought and eventually left her position and ended their relationship before Dehmel appeared.
Stephanie Wellfleet, Dehmel’s wife, was also John’s mother and Timothy’s foster mother.
Hanna Enlich, Conrad’s lover, was a cellist. Although she was Jewish, Hanna returned to Nazi Germany to try to reach her father, who had been imprisoned. They were caught trying to flee. She forgave Conrad for breaking under torture.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 586
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 entire section contains 1647 words.)
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