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The seriocomic odyssey of a Polish immigrant forced to work for a mob of vicious gangsters. Jerzy Wozzeck is a short, rather hapless soul who has managed to make it from his native Warsaw to Paris, where all he wants is to be left alone to play the jazz piano at Le Hamburger-Hot, a seedy bistro mn by a bunch of Corsican thugs. But his fellow ÉmigrÉ, philosopher Andrzey Kupki, convinces him to help deliver ""packages"" (obviously full of drags) for a vicious mob somewhat obscurely known as UniRex. At first, Jerzy loves it--he now has money in his pocket and can impress his wife, Heidi, and her mother; soon, however, he's having qualms and wants to quit. Easier said than done: the boys in gray suits over at UniRex threaten to frame him with the murder of a local criminal, then cajole him by giving him speed and a beautiful associate named Rita. But Wozzek finally breaks away and runs for England, hoping to bury himself anonymously in London. UniRex follows, of course, and the novel veers toward tragedy when Wozzek is forced to stalk and attempt to kill an Englishman who has double-crossed the gang. Smith here takes a giant step forward from last year's The Man From Marseille: Wozzek's tale is both chilling and funny, the story of an unlucky man in an existential horror show who blunders through with the charm of the Little Tramp, but is finally ground under. In all, ambitious, intelligent and quite compelling.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Grove