Though not so removed in theme from Konrad's earlier, impressive The Caseworker, this new novel-meditation veers dramatically away from the chilled, mirrory persistence of the first book into pyrotechnical rhetoric, scant narrative, and a high curmudgeonly sheen. With the device of an architect/city-planner's memories, Konrad sets down wave upon wave of pensees on the philosophy of bureaucracy, on religion, on socialism, and foremostly upon the nightmare of control: ""I plan; therefore I am. I feel my way in the world with plans. With each line drawn in the blueprint, I cut through the face of doubt."" Still living in Hungary, Konrad is less interested in having his architect reject state-socialism than in having him nudge out the pretensions and harrowing self-righteousness it's equipped with. Sandwiched between an old-regime architect father and an emotionally-ill and institutionalized son, he moves through life in surrealistic gulps and set-pieces--the suicide of a superior, the death of a wife, the visit of a lover, the earthquake destruction of the city he's done so much to plan and build--in grail-search for a truth that keeps popping up on its heretical own: ""If you give accident its freedom, you are the one to whom, in whom, everything happens."" The book demands this license, too; attention will he repaid, but patience with the florid style and a share of Konrad's steady-handed seriousness are absolute requisites.