Author: Julio Cortázar
First published: Los premios, 1960 (English translation, 1965)
Locale: Buenos Aires and aboard a cruise ship
Time: The 1950's
Gabriel Medrano (meh-DRAH-noh), a dentist and a womanizer who is dissatisfied with life on board the Malcolm.He allies himself with a group that does not accept the official explanation of why the passengers have not been given complete access to the ship, that of an outbreak of typhus among the crew's members. When Claudia Lewbaum's son Jorge becomes ill, Medrano decides that the unsatisfactory response of the ship's authorities requires forcible entry into the restricted areas of the ship. He storms the radio room and forces the operator to send a message to Buenos Aires about Jorge's condition. The radio operator then kills Medrano. The passengers are asked to sign a statement that Medrano died of typhus instead of gunshot wounds.
Carlos López, a leftist high school Spanish teacher who refuses to believe that the passengers are being denied access to the entire ship because of an outbreak of typhus. He threatens one of the ship's officers that he will storm the other side of the ship if the restrictions on passenger movement are not lifted. He agrees with Medrano about the need to send a radio message because of Jorge's illness. He is struck unconscious in the assault on the sailors' quarters and is returned to his room. He refuses to sign the official statement about the cause of Medrano's death.
Persio (pehr-SEE-oh), a short, bald, eccentric proofreader and aspiring writer. He is a dreamer who lives in a world of philosophical speculation. He is so engrossed in his own thoughts that he does not involve himself in the controversy among the passengers about their treatment on the ship.
Raúl Costa (rrah-EWL KOHS-tah), a homosexual architect who tries to seduce Felipe Trejo. During his secret exploration of the other side of the ship, he steals three guns and ammunition from the sailors' quarters and then divides it among Medrano, López, and himself. He helps Medrano and López storm the other side of the ship and, after shots are fired, finds Medrano dead in the radio room. Like López, he refuses to sign the official statement about the cause of Medrano's death.
Paula Lavalle (lah-VAH-yeh), an attractive redhead who writes poems and stories. Although she is Costa's close friend and traveling companion, she is courted by López. She also denies the official version of events on the ship.
Claudia Lewbaum, the divorced mother of Jorge. Her son's high fever precipitates the assault on the other side of the ship. Her budding friendship with Medrano ends abruptly with his death.
Felipe Trejo (feh-LEE-peh TREH-hoh), a high school student learning to deal with his sexual feelings. His fantasies of sexual conquest remain unfulfilled because there are no young ladies his age on board. Although he is contemptuous of homosexuality, it intrigues him. He rejects Costa's advances, only to be raped by a sailor, an incident he represses by fabricating a tale in which he seduced an insatiable Paula.
Dr. Restelli (rreh-STEH-yee), a conservative colleague of López who teaches Argentine history. He speaks up for the passengers who accept the restrictions imposed by the ship's authorities. He organizes a passenger talent show to lift everyone's spirits and take their minds off the alleged outbreak of typhus among the ship's staff. He accuses those who challenge the authorities of trying to ruin the cruise for the others.
Don Galo Porriño (GAH-loh poh-RREEN-yoh), a successful Galician businessman confined to a wheelchair. He speaks in defense of the authorities and considers those who are unwilling to submit to the crew's demands to be guilty of insubordination and anarchy.