M. Carpentier is a writer of descriptive elegance and these five short stories of ancient and more modern times are to be read for the lambent and often lustrous particulars of the scenes he sets with such care. A much earlier era is evoked in fine detail in ""The Highroad of Saint James"" as an itinerant musician, after a fever (the plague?) becomes a pilgrim and sails for New Spain as the Inquisition is guttering out; another wanderer, a sailor, sets off to civilize the New World and make his fortune quickly in ""Like the Night""; while many myths and beliefs merge in ""The Chosen"" (Biblical, Greek, etc.) to show that men are only saved to war again. The two modern stories are fancifully ironic: a Secretary to the President in a country just taken over by a military coup exercises his ""Right of Sanctuary"" in a foreign embassy and his droit de seigneur with the Ambassador's wife; and a dying man's ""Journey Back to the Source"" reverses a man's life from the tomb to the womb always reducing his field of perception. . . . Edith Sitwell considered Carpentier ""one of the greatest writers alive at this time""--certainly he creates and recreates worlds with ceremonious style and precision; however--the audience may be difficult to ascertain or assure.