A fictionalized biography of Peter Ludvig Moller, a leading Danish literary critic in the early 19th century who is best known as the subject of Kierkegaard's The Seducer's Journal. Stangerup (The Road to Lagoa Santa, 1984; The Man Who Wanted to Be Guilty, 1982) successfully captures an intellectual milieu and a life filled with chaos, intellectual ferment, and much instability. Moller died in 1856, of syphilis and dissipation, and the stow here begins and ends with the hallucinatory images that haunt him in his last days. He was a brilliant student, but a girl he shyly proposed to rejected him at the behest of his mother, who would go into a ""dazed rapture"" at the sight of ""better houses""; and Moller, described as a Danish version of Ezra Pound, spent much of his life in a rage against orthodoxy. His father lived in ""inchoate rage, fueled by his own abysmal sense of failure."" Moller switched from medicine to theology; the novel traces his journey from avid proponet of ""the good criticism"" (a sort of visionary realism) and forceful antagonist of Kierkegaard's subjectivity and religious idealism (Moller: ""I fling down the gauntlet!"") to depraved sensualist and frantic intellectual who ""dashes off one article after another."" He goes into exile in Paris, ""precisely where he belongs,"" observes the life of the dance halls and literary cafes, smokes hash, consorts with hookers, and continues to write about everything from troubadour poets to folk tales, all the while maintaining a loyalty for ""ordinary working gifts."" A perfectionist, he fails to achieve what he hopes for, and his final phantasmagoric death in Dieppe is both pathetic and tragic in Stangerup's account. A vivid dramatization of a brilliant yet flawed personality at fatal odds with his times.