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Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1995
Publisher: Weidenfeid & Nicolson--dist. by Trafalgar

The latest from noted Hungarian writer Esterhzy (The Book of Hrabal, 1994, etc.) is a dazzling if occasionally whimsical riff on history, philosophy, and Europolitics with a Danube River setting. The narrator is a professional Traveller who journeys on behalf of others, the ""hirers"" or ""contractors."" Travel, he asserts, is not staying in foreign hotels or seeing the sights--that's tourism--but, rather, an opportunity to explore and experience reality in not always comfortable conditions. These experiences, as part of the contract with the hirer, must be described in detailed and regular reports. Wishing to have the concentrated vision of the one-eyed Countess Hahn-Hahn, a woman novelist whom Heinrich Heine knew, the Traveller begins at the Danube's source in Germany. But this is not a travelogue, and the narrator is not your conventional guide: While he offers facts, historical and allegorical anecdotes, and tart commentary on recent European history, at the heart of the story is the exploration of the relationships between place and self, destiny and destination, geography and history, that have shaped both the Traveller's life and the countries through which the great river flows. Reminiscences about his own past, his family, and his native Hungary, especially its capital, Budapest, round out the journey, as do references to the sequences of women who accompany him. He also tells of his adventures with Roberto, a distant uncle and sometime fellow Danube companion, who once seduced his mother, kidnapped the present Traveller as a child, and later became a spy for both East and West. To be savored, like the Traveller's reports, for the experiences described and insights offered as Esterhzy explores the heart and mind of that other Europe.