The essay-novel, or the novel of introspection or symbolic action, has only recently caught on in Italy. Moravia is sexually oriented, the interests of Silone and Vittorini are basically social, and all three employ a more or less realistic immediacy. Paolo Volponi's The World Wide Machine, on the other hand, is closer to Musil and Kafka, to dehydrated prose, indirect representation, and allegorical issues. The first person narrator here exists in the closed world of his own mind, coolly spinning an abstract meditation on the evolutionary drive of the future and the bourgeois olly of the present. For Anteo Crocioni, ""reality has only two terms: man and science."" He is the obsessed utopian, the philosophical scientist without an accomodating bone in his body, the historical martyr whose fancy it is ""that men have been built in the likeness of a machine by other beings who...are also machines, and that man's true destiny is to build other machines which will be better than man."" So he continues his improbable designs, his only friend a gentle priest with whom he debates the nature of life, while his wife is driven to infanticide, and he himself dies a suicide, though still secure in his faith. An elliptical, highly suggestive work, no doubt a parody of the scientific method, and a cautionary reflection on progress.