The Makepeace Experiment Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Lubimow, 1963 (English translation, 1965)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Satire

Time of work: The early 1960’s

Locale: Lyubimov, a fictitious small Russian town

Characters DiscussedLeonard (Lenny) Makepeace

Leonard Makepeace Experiment, The (Lenny) Makepeace, also known as Leonid Tikhomirov (leh-oh-NIHD tih-khoh MIH-rov), a young bicycle repairman in the fictitious Russian city of Lyubimov. Lenny’s father was a cobbler who perished in World War II. His mother dotes on him, trying continually to fatten his lean, narrow-chested frame with cottage cheese. Lenny becomes obsessed with coming to power in Lyubimov because he thinks this will please Serafima Petrovna, the attractive local language teacher. He obtains power by the use of “mental magnetism,” a skill he acquired by reading a book written by Samson Samsonovich Proferansov, the philanthropist ancestor of Savely Kuzmich Proferansov, a Lyubimov librarian. After taking power, Lenny enforces a hypnotic utopia on the citizens of Lyubimov, protecting the city from outside authorities by means of a sort of mental camouflage. Lenny’s utopia embodies a naïve idealism, well-meaning but at variance with the many frailties of human nature. In the end, his control erodes, and he even commands certain unappreciative citizens to die in the interest of a public welfare that he defines. His friends and supporters desert him as the outside authorities retake the city by force. Lenny sneaks out of the city and into obscurity by hitching a ride on a freight train.

Savely Kuzmich Proferansov

Savely Kuzmich Proferansov (sah-VYEH-lee kewz-MIHKH proh-feh-RAN-sov), the Lyubimov municipal librarian and the intermittent narrator of the novel’s events. A widower with a bald spot and a grown daughter, Savely befriends Lenny Makepeace, suggesting that Lenny involve himself in reading as solace for Serafima Petrovna’s lack of affection. When Lenny’s reading results in his taking control of the city, Savely is elevated to become his official historiographer. Savely’s writing, however, is openly influenced by the will of his disembodied ancestor, Samson Samsonovich Proferansov, who dictates much of its content. When Lenny’s utopia falls apart, Savely is able to survive by ingratiating himself with the former leader, Semyon Gavrilovich Tishchenko.

Samson Samsonovich Proferansov

Samson Samsonovich Proferansov, the disembodied spirit of a nineteenth century nobleman and philanthropist, a friend and correspondent of Antoine Lavoisier and Leo Tolstoy, and a sojourner to mystic India. He first appears to his descendant, Savely Kuzmich Proferansov, in the human form of a professor sent to investigate the finding of a “skeleton of a monk with boar’s tusks instead of teeth.” It is he who directs Savely to write down events concerning the city’s history, and it is he who meddles in these events by making his book, The Magnet of the Soul, available for Lenny Makepeace to read.

Serafima Petrovna Kozlova

Serafima Petrovna Kozlova (seh-rah-FIH-mah peh-TROHV-nah KOH-zloh-vah), a beautiful language teacher in Lyubimov who is admired by many of the male inhabitants of the city. She tells Lenny Makepeace that she will have him only if he lays the city of Lyubimov at her feet. Lenny’s subsequent mental power over the city’s inhabitants includes Serafima, who is made to show constant adoration for him. She and Lenny are married, but the marriage is never consummated. In a moment of mental freedom, she denies Savely Kuzmich’s prejudicial contention that she is a “Jewess” but admits to Lenny’s consternation that she has been married before, that she has a daughter living elsewhere, and that she has had affairs with several local men, including Dr. Linde. She eventually flees the city and Lenny, taking with her the money with which he had wallpapered her room.

Dr. Linde

Dr. Linde, a local physician with an ash-blond moustache who tells Lenny Makepeace about his having spotted a live prehistoric pterodactyl near Lyubimov. His pterodactyl is later encountered by government troops trying to find their way to Lyubimov through Lenny’s mental camouflage. Dr. Linde becomes Lenny’s chief medical officer but is demoted to hospital orderly after Lenny finds out about his affair with Serafima Petrovna. In the end, he refuses to run away with Serafima, choosing instead to seek favor with Semyon Gavrilovich Tishchenko.

Vitaly Kochetov

Vitaly Kochetov (vih-TAH-lee koh-cheh-TOV), a government agent, a minor character referred to as Vitya in an earlier novel. He manages to infiltrate Lyubimov despite Lenny Makepeace’s security system. Overhearing Lenny’s intentions, he becomes Lenny’s staunch supporter and friend. Like Dr. Linde, he refuses to run away with Serafima Petrovna, and he is killed confronting a government tank.

Semyon Gavrilovich Tishchenko

Semyon Gavrilovich Tishchenko (sehm-YON gahv-RIH-loh-vihch TIH-shchehn-koh), the secretary of the Lyubimov Party Committee, the town leader who is mentally forced to surrender his power to Lenny Makepeace. He retires to the riverbank and bides his time by fishing. As Lenny’s control of Lyubimov diminishes, various citizens come to make their peace with him. After Lenny’s departure, he is restored to a secondary position of power.

Lenny’s mother

Lenny’s mother, an aging widow who continually asks her son to “have a little cottage cheese.” When she asks Lenny not to tear down the local monastery, he forces her to mouth the words “There is no God.” In the end, she requests a priest to perform a service for the welfare of her son.

BibliographyAucouturier, Michel. “Writer and Text in the Works of Abram Terc,” in Fiction and Drama in Eastern and Southeastern Europe: Evolution and Experiment in the Postwar Period, 1980. Edited by Henrik Birnbaum and Thomas Eekman.Brown, Deming. “The Art of Andrei Siniavsky,” in Slavic Review. XXIX (1970), pp. 663-681.Brown, Deming. Soviet Russian Literature Since Stalin, 1978.Dalton, Margaret. Andrei Siniavskii and Julii Daniel’: Two Soviet “Heretical” Writers, 1973.Lourie, Richard. Letters to the Future: An Approach to Sinyavsky-Tertz, 1975.
Categories: Characters