This is the third Bitov book to reach us in Susan Brownsberger's exemplary translation (the novel Life in Windy Weather and short-story collection Pushkin House)--and just how shaggy and exhilarating an encyclopedia of Russian literature Bitov is becomes more and more manifest: He's like an anti-Nabokov. The Caucasian regions have been a staple locale of Russian classics since Pushkin: Tolstoy, Lermontov, Mandelstam--all of them found in the foreignness of the Caucasus the place out of time that ratified their artistic intuitions that writing renders both space and time suspect, that it is an activity that doesn't quite belong to either. On the face of it, Bitov is writing a ravished account of Armenian and Georgian integrities and natural beauties (such as the hewn-from-a-rock-face Armenian church, Geghard); as travel writing, the book has a subjective, swoony/goony quality that's appealing. But the literary echoes, and the very phenomenology of being in one place and not another, quickly develop into an argument for the writer as traveler even when sitting in his chair at his desk--without any real idea of what he's encountering, nor the absolute command of language to describe it. This sense of mysterious, giddy provisionality is both very Russian and deliciously individual in Bitov.