This novel is in part an allegory of modern Europe , by a writer well-known in Germany, and it is at once an odd mixture of actual reality and a rather traditional symbolism. Oscar Stepunat, awaiting trial, tells his story- from his boyhood when he lived alone with his parents in an isolated railway post near a frontier. His father is a Lithuanian maintenance worker, and the family is troubled by shifting frontiers and loyalties-but takes identity from the life-line of the railroad. Soon, however, there are the refugees, and then bombers destroy the bridge. The family flees too, drifting helplessly at first, and the link to the past snaps when his parents die. The boy, now 20, works in hotels, solitary withdrawn. He is conned by an itinerant photographer into taking a job dressed as a bear to amuse tourist-clients in a mountain resort. Here, high above the world, alienated from his past, hating the tourists and his degraded role as a beast, he finally turns on his tormentor- the photographer- and accidentally kills him.... The use of symbols that represent a teetering Europe, the fantasy-reality of the beast-human, are reminiscent of several earlier writers. They do not altogether cohere with the first half of the book which documents the tragedy of the expatriate in quiet, sympathetic terms.