Gerard Sorel, the narrator, also known as Sanchez, Camille Salagnac, Rafael Artigas, Rafael Bustamante, Larrea, Ramon Barreto, and other pseudonyms. He is a Spaniard and Communist Party member who spent time in the Buchenwald concentration camp. He narrates his story and never reveals his real name. From a bourgeois background, yet well known and trusted in the Party underground, Gerard survives the prison camp because of the Party’s place in its organization. He is an intellectual, or observer, by temperament. He constantly compares individuals, national groups, and times in history. His prison camp experiences, especially the constant awareness of others’ deaths, make him question the reality of his experiences and even of his existence. This sense of unreality is further fostered by his many identity changes and the changes, over the years, in the Communist Party line.
Fernand Barizon, a Communist Party member from France who survives Buchenwald with Gerard and discusses it with him fifteen years later. The meaning of his remark “What a beautiful Sunday!” is never articulated, though Gerard’s memory of the statement resonates throughout the novel. Barizon is not an intellectual. He remembers his true and very physical love affair with a French garment union member, Juliette, and he has a zest for food and a desire for comfort. He is an extremely loyal friend. He never fully...
(The entire section is 509 words.)