One approaches any dissident fiction with an initially welcoming stance--Brandys, a Polish novelist, has not been able to publish this book in Poland--but here the substance is too dense and the presentation too soporific to maintain much interest or sympathy. The narrator is a professor of theater in Warsaw who's attending an international conference in Scandinavia. Pressed to answer a wide-ranging questionnaire, he answers back--and the result is this rambling, essay-like novel. Included in his answers are opinions about: Polish love of fatherland and indifference to personal liberty; the lack of mystery in contemporary theater; the dilemmas of Polish intellectuals; the hushed-over secret of wartime inter-Resistance murders. But none of this is in any way rendered dramatically; it's merely announced: ""Let us define our terms. By the word freedom one can mean a juridico-political state, or a social utopia, or again a human aspiration. . . ."" A well-meaning import, perhaps, but compared to the works (dissident and otherwise) of a Russian like Zinoviev or a Hungarian like Konrad, Brandys' polemic is second-rate--and, especially for an American reader, it's also airless and drab.