The second novella here, set in pre-WW I Australia and then at Ypres in the mud and gore, is creditable fiction--with two young men of different classes thrown to-gether for carnage. Jim Saddler had been a gamekeeper for Ashley Crowther back home; in the war, Jim's a trench soldier while Ashley's an officer. And for Jim, the war is one long intensification of his awareness of nature--his youthful bird-watching now transfigured into a cataloguing of people as slaughtered animals. But while this rather formless story displays an impressive sense of powerful metaphor, the first novella--Child's Play--is the real attraction here. A young Italian terrorist is writing down his thoughts prior to killing an 80-year-old maestro of Italian letters. Yet these meditations are so faultlessly styled and beautifully turned that in time you begin to catch on that this story--of murder, of ending--may be a fiction from the pen of the great writer himself (who strongly resembles Montale). And one begins also to feel the parallels between a writer's lifelong anticipation of death and a young man's preparation for attack. True, this piece is probably too static. But it is cannily paced, reverberating long after its finish: a story about the mystery of intention. And overall these tales are striking work from the author of Johnno and An Imaginary Life--though undeniably special, very literary, for a limited audience.