- The head of a major Japanese electronics firm and
an extremely hard worker. Order and diligence characterize Hosokawa’s
life, and only when listening to opera does he feel passionately
alive. His adoration for the voice of opera singer Roxanne Coss
brings him to the poor South American country where the novel is set.
There, Hosokawa and Coss fall in love.
opera diva used to the indulgence of the world. Over the course
of the novel, every man who hears Coss sing falls in love with her.
Eventually, Coss returns the love of Hosokawa. While she is small
in stature, Coss has an oversized presence.
in-depth analysis of Roxanne Coss.
interpreter. Watanabe, who is in his twenties, has a great gift
for languages, and the hostages and the terrorists rely on him to
communicate with one another. Despite his facility with languages, Watanabe
struggles when trying to express himself. He has an intuitive sense
of what everyone else wants and needs, but he is not always aware
of his own desires. When Watanabe falls in love with Carmen, one
of the terrorists, he finds his own voice.
in-depth analysis of Gen Watanabe.
shy, timid, and beautiful young terrorist. Carmen’s greatest talent
is her ability to move stealthily, without other people noticing
her presence. She asks Gen Watanabe to teach her how to read and
write in Spanish, her native language. Over the course of their secret
lessons, they fall in love.
vice president of the small South American country in which the
novel is set, and the owner of the house in which the terrorists
hold their captives. Iglesias, one of the most sympathetic characters
in the novel, rose up from poverty and put himself through law school
by working as a clerk and a janitor. During the four-month standoff,
he spends much of his time cleaning up after the other hostages
and terrorists and making sure that they are all comfortable. When
the terrorists allow the hostages outside, he immediately begins
tending his garden.
- The most intelligent and thoughtful of the three generals
who lead the terrorists. Benjamin was a schoolteacher until his
brother was arrested and imprisoned for handing out flyers publicizing
a political protest. After that, he joined the terrorist group La
Familia de Martin Suarez, named after a ten-year-old boy who was
shot dead while handing out flyers for a political rally. Benjamin
has left behind a wife and children, and he is fatherly to some
of the young terrorists under his command. He is plagued with shingles,
which rage across much of his face.
French ambassador to the South American country where the novel
is set. Because he longs for his wife, Thibault is the hostage who
is most unhappy about the long standoff.
- A Swiss representative for the Red Cross. who negotiates
between the government and the terrorists. He is the one person
allowed to come and go from the mansion. Messner punctuates the
general happiness with frequent reminders that the situation will
good numbers man in Hosokawa’s electronics company. During the four
months of captivity, Kato reveals himself to be an accomplished
pianist and takes over for Coss’s accompanist. The tenderness Kato
feels for his wife and daughters infuses his piano playing. Kato
longs to continue accompanying Coss instead of returning to his
life as a businessman.
- A young priest and an opera lover. Although the terrorists
are willing to release him, Father Arguedas asks to stay. During
the four months of captivity, he says mass and hears people’s confessions.
He is one of the first characters to feel more concern than fear
for the terrorists. He considers the four months during which he
is able to hear Coss sing a gift from God.
- A high-ranking Soviet official. Fyodorov declares his
love for Coss not because he hopes she will return it, but because
expressing his love for her makes him feel better. Fyodorov tells
Coss how much he loved a beautiful book of paintings that his grandmother
had when he was a child, and compares his love for that book to
his love for her.
South American contractor and one of the captives. Mendoza and the
vice president, Iglesias, often chat, talking about their early
love affairs, their adoration for Coss, and the affection they feel
for one of the young terrorists, Ishmael. Mendoza has nightmares
that in his absence, young men will take advantage of his five daughters,
wooing them into love affairs the way Mendoza himself wooed young
girls when he was a young man.
of the youngest and brightest of the terrorists. Ishmael learns
to play chess by watching General Benjamin and Hosokawa play. He
is a favorite of both General Benjamin and the hostages. Iglesias
becomes particularly fond of Ishmael and wants to adopt him.
young terrorist with crooked teeth and a crooked nose. For most
of the novel, no one really notices Cesar. But one morning when
Coss does not come down to sing, Cesar performs instead, and his
voice is practically miraculous. Coss takes him under her wing and
gives him singing lessons.
brattiest of the young terrorists. Beatriz is often cranky and frustrated,
and she is quick to draw her gun if any of the hostages get out
of line. But her strong will is appealing, as is her craving for
accompanist. Much to Coss’s dismay, Christopf declares his love
for Coss on the plane ride to the South American country. She rejects
his love, but he refuses to leave her side after they are taken
captive, even when he grows deathly ill. A diabetic, he eventually
dies from lack of insulin.
- The governess who cares for Ruben Iglesias’ children.
She ably and tenderly stitches up Iglesias’ face after he is wounded.
- The president never makes a direct appearance in
the novel. The terrorists invade the party in the hopes of capturing
him, but he has stayed home to watch an important episode of his
favorite soap opera.