THE ORIENT EXPRESS by Gregor von Rezzori


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A crabby, 65-year-old New York industrialist, Aram--Armenian-horn, European-raised, uncomfortably American-packs up his tent and takes off suddenly to go around the world alone. It's a pilgrimage less of real destination than of flight from his 20-year-old unsatisfactory marriage to Jewish princess Linda (and her intellectual/media/art-world New York friends). In Venice, Aram decides very much on the spur of the moment to buy a ticket on the archly refurbished and overly expensive new Orient Express (""Disneyland choo-choo"") and--if not revisit the moods of his first trip on the original train back when he was 15--then at least note the divergences. There was a mysterious, turban-ed woman back then, and now there's a Finnish travel agent--promises of erotic liaison that Aram finds himself just as happy to leave unfulfilled. For Aram, as the alter ego of von Rezzori (The Death of My Brother Abel, etc.), not surprisingly thrives on the world being less than he hopes. Strewing quotes in French from Valery Larbaud, cross-culturally superior to everyone, pleased with his own Schadenfreude and preening misanthropy, Aram is a condescension-machine, not even close to believable as a person. Some of his animadversions have bite--the grotesque sight of a couple parading their Down's syndrome son through a Venice museum pits the cult of great art (""the daubing and chipping lackeys of the Church and aristocracy"") against the terror and sad beauty of actual life--but most are just crusty (and overwritten). Bilious bilge.

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 1992
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Knopf