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Italian-American Elkann's second novel to appear in English (following Piazza Carignano, 1986) charts the sexual, professional, and political disillusionment of a clique of European intellectuals, spies, and hangers-on. Sexually omnivorous Marziano and diffident publisher Dennis, both followers of the late philosopher-drug-addict Max, struggle with the burden of his heirship in different ways: Marziano marries Marina, feuds with Trixi Eberhardt, gets exiled to Paris, starts running errands for the KGB, impregnates Marina's radical friend Enrica, and so on; in the meantime, Dennis stops gambling, encourages Marziano to organize a conference on Max, buries his mother (""Donna Ada ended up in a ravine with her car""), contemplates marriage without committing himself, and so on. While Dennis is staying at Le Palace et du Golf (shades of Last Year at Marienbad!) along with misanthropic Mario, elderly writer Bosco, lovers Jean-Marie and Marie-Francoise, Nanni and Maud Belgioioso, estranged Marina and her English friend Vanessa Muller, and so on, he's shot by an unknown young woman. Is she a spy, or part of a conspiracy to prevent publication of Bosco's book (which might say the wrong things about Max), or a vengeful former lover? Can Dennis complete his recovery from the shooting by learning his father's identity or taking up with sexy Anna or her cousin Freya? Will the English reporter Marc Blum find the pattern behind the subsequent chain of violence (Mario dies following a car crash, Freya kills Marziano, Bosco dies in his hotel room, Anna gets kidnapped and blinded by terrorists, Vanessa is poisoned, Nanni strangles Marina) before he gets killed himself?. A riddle with an equally riddling answer, wreathed in clouds of deadpan anomie that many readers will doubtless find archly amusing--and many others very, very tedious.

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 1989
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown