Tommaso Landolfi, whose work appears here for the first time, has been referred to as ""the Italian Kafka"". His command of words and turn of mind emerges as distinctive, however, in these stories gathered from the output of twenty-five years. In the title story, Gogol's Wife is a balloon, expeditiously blown up in the most obvious manner into her various never-to-be repeated forms by her husband; at the close, in a frenzy of connubial despair, he celebrates their silver wedding anniversary by exploding her altogether, with her son to boot. ""Dialogue On the Greater Harmonies"" explores the tantalizing aesthetic conundrum of the value of poems written in a non-existent language. In ""The Two Old Maids"", the question of sin, when a monkey has desecrated the host, comes to the fore in a display of pyrotechnics amid an ash-grey environment. Perhaps the most extended story is ""The Death of the King of France"", otherwise known as ""W.C."", in which the author creates a tour deforce, carrying it to its zenith, only to dissipate its power, as a promising firecracker sputters and fizzles, by an incredible show of irony. An imagination which eschews delicacy of subject matter for the essential, a unique command of irony, are at the heart of these fascinating stories, several ambitious, and varied in their success as they may be.