The narrator, an author who has lived in West Berlin for the last twenty years. Fascinated by the divisions and similarities between the two Berlins, he decides to write about someone who breaks the barrier separating East and West Berlin, a “wall jumper.” He moves back and forth between the two cities, visiting friends and hearing their stories of such jumpers, which he blends into various fantasies. He discovers that each government molds the thought processes of its inhabitants to suit its peculiar social system. In the end, he finds that he cannot jump the wall inside his own mind.
Robert, a poet who has immigrated to West Berlin from East Berlin. A neighbor and friend of the narrator, he adapts quickly to life in his new home precisely because he is a Berliner. He has a cynical distrust of authority, finding a subtext in every act and a plan behind what seems to the narrator to be simple chance. He tells the narrator the stories of Mr. Kabe and Walter Bolle.
Lena, a former girlfriend of the narrator. She immigrated to West Berlin from East Berlin in 1961. During her relationship with the narrator, she was suspicious of his absences and eventually became suspicious of everyone. He accompanied her on her first return visit to her family and realized she needed the security she had left on the other side of the wall. She meets with the narrator briefly in the present but talks mainly to Robert. The narrator is left to fantasize a one-sided conversation with her after she leaves.
Pommerer, an author living in East Berlin. He tells the narrator the stories of the three teenage cinema-goers and of Michael Gartenschläger. After signing a letter protesting a fine levied on a fellow author, he discovers that his telephone is often out of order and begins to think about leaving East Germany....
(The entire section is 795 words.)