A nondescript collection of 12 stories by younger and lesser- known European writers, all of which were commissioned for this volume published simultaneously in its authors' 12 native countries in conjunction with the 1994 Frankfurt Book Fair. Several read like unfinished work (``A Bit of a Tease,'' by Britain's MichÇle Roberts, seems especially inchoate), and there's a tedious superfluity of stories in which shadowy alienated figures travel purposelessly across vaguely limned (probably symbolic) landscapes. Two exceptions stand out: ``Everything Bad Comes Back'' by Javier Marias (Spain), an account of its narrator's friendship with a neurotic writer that becomes a wry comic anatomy of the pleasures and pains of the literary life; and ``The Invisible Ones'' by Kjell Askildsen (Norway), the chilling portrayal of a sonreturned home for his father's funeralwhose lengthy estrangement from his wary family and neighbors is ``explained'' with marvelous subtlety through a series of beautifully timed and spaced revelations. These two aside, the volume has little to offer.
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