Broch, little known here, is a distinguished German writer who died in 1951. After World War II he put together some of his Weimar-period stories and added more to make a sort of novel, spliced with religious/existential parables and guiding poems called ""1913,"" ""1923,"" and ""1933."" Broch's postscript says the book indicts the unpolitical, the ""guiltless"" -- the philistines, as he justly calls them, who left room for Hitler. The novel itself denies this tacked-on interpretation. It combines a Virginia Woolfian tumble of inner and outer sensations with a dreamlike and far from critical detachment, like Isak Dinesen's. A young man takes a room in the house of a widowed baroness, her succubus of a daughter, and their vengeful old servant. He discovers the betrayals and murders of the past. Wandering around the little German city and seducing the granddaughter of a beekeeper, he gets crushed by new death and family doublecrosses. Into this quite timeless tale Broch inserts two brilliant portraits of fascist temperament. The first is a war veteran and careerist Social Democrat who fears Einstein's effect on classroom discipline and craves his wife's whippings, the ""Absolute,"" Teutonic destiny and an offhand anti-Semitism. Broch scores him, but seems to revere the second prototype -- the displaced artisan who flees from modern industry to become a beekeeper and wanderer through raw nature. The encompassing irony of this insufficiently ironic book is that Broch, for all his recurrent dithyrambs about self, silence, heaven and earth, shows himself -- especially when the poems whine about social turmoil -- to be almost as philistine as his schoolmaster. Be decent, he tells us at last; but no fulcrum of decency is apprehended outside what Broch calls ""the ghostly quality of the Zeitgeist"" he after all shares.