Odd musings and wanderings in out-of-the-way places: an intricate fable from a popular German novelist, now making his US debut. Graham Greene casts a long shadow through Kirchhoff's narrative, in style if not in tone. The center of attention is Kurt Lukas, a German fashion model who comes to rest on a suitably godforsaken Philippine island full of European priests. For reasons that are never fully hinted at--much less made clear--Kurt has decided to drop out of things for a while, and the mission fathers (who seem only marginally more balanced than he is) take him in gladly and do their best to keep him. They are helped along by Mayla, their orphaned housekeeper and surrogate daughter, who wastes no time in seducing Kurt with her virginity. The impending revolution that hovers in the background makes the seclusion of Kurt and Mayla's pastorale all the weirder--as does the fact that every single one of the priests is in love with her and makes a point of confessing his sexual transgressions to Kurt at the earliest opportunity. There is a real power and elegance in Kirchhoff's story, but it is one that requires a realistic (rather than imaginative) background--otherwise, the subtle economy of metaphor and suggestion will be (and is) overwhelmed and swallowed up by a tide of fantasy. How much of the book's weakness can be ascribed to the (clear and generally quite readable) translation is uncertain, but there is an unquestionable gap between the depth and assurance of the author's descriptive powers and the overall flatness of the work as a whole. A beautiful mess that could've worked: too much is built upon too slight a foundation.