A disappointing impressionistic tour of Western Europe by an Italian journalist and essayist. Piovene's stated subject is an evaluation of the possiblities for European unification, but this is hardly ever discussed in the text. His thirteen essays try to capture the essence of each country by blending observations on its cooking and politics, religion, architecture, and psychology. Yet only three or four succeed, such as the one which explores the tension in Holland between the search for extreme freedom and an strict, almost Spartan, morality; a consideration of Finland's success at maintaining its national and cultural identity against the demands of its powerful Russian neighbor; and a brief study of Sweden's sterile and paternalistic social-engineering society. The article on Spain is also adequate, but the rest of the book is superficial. Piovene's imagery is overpowered by his sense of imminent European disaster, fading individual freedoms, ""institutional vacuums,"" and the threat of leftist revolution. Significantly, he found only Portugal, (where some of these fears have since been fulfilled) to be stable. Whether or not he is right in general is hard to determine since the strength of his obsessions--understandable from the viewpoint of turbulent Italy--leave the impression that his compass is too narrow and his tableaus distorted. Piovene is a good enough writer to transport the reader to the spot, but not enough of an analyst to let him understand what he is seeing.