Study Guide

Manfred Bruch in The White Darkness

By Geraldine McCaughrean

Manfred Bruch

Manfred Bruch is a con man who poses as a Norwegian film director. Initially, Sym doesn't realize Manfred is connected to Victor in any way. Instead she's just deeply impressed by his charm—and his (fake) teenage son, Sigurd. At a party, she describes Manfred as "mov[ing] effortlessly from group to group. It did not surprise me to learn that he was a film director […]. Like a camera, Manfred fetched full-face smiles from everyone he spoke to" (5.62). Yup, dude's a charmer, that's for sure.

Eventually we learn that Manfred originally befriended Victor through a website for conspiracy theorist types. He has been steadily swindling Victor out of cash for months, maybe years, with increasingly ridiculous ploys, including a fake fossil he bought off eBay.

Pushed near insanity during a dangerous expedition with Victor, Manfred finally admits to his treachery. In the way he conveys the details of his con, we understand that he's deeply impressed with himself. "So expansive was Bruch that I wondered if he wanted us to applaud him," says Sym. "The trouble he had gone to! The ingenuity he had shown!" (14.89) The success of his con is more of a testament to Victor's craziness than to Manfred's skill. In any case, though, in the end it's all for naught: Victor pays Manfred with a fake check… and then murders him for good measure.

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