Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyA Manhattan financier in the throes of an existential crisis flees his job and wife to travel aimlessly around the world in this elegant meditation on eros, death, the futility of existence, the Americanization of the Old World and the quest for self-transcendence. In the first half of the novel the nameless narrator, holed up in Venice, reflects on his half-Armenian, half-English ancestry, his boyhood in Romania and England, the corporate rat race and his compulsive lovemaking. Neither his frigid wife Linda, a social activist, nor his mistress Denise, who models her lifestyle on those of old movie heroines, fulfills his craving for union. In the second half, the protagonist heads for London on the Orient Express, replicating the legendary train ride he had taken half a century earlier as a 15-year-old. The ``myth of the luxury train,'' a romantic symbol of a bygone epoch, evaporates as he has meaningless sex with a Finnish tour guide and contemplates the modern world's pollution, shrunken expectations and rush to self-destruction. Rezzori ( Memoirs of an Anti-Semite ) rails at life's absurdities, celebrates its fleeting joys and storms the silent vault of heaven--``the Black Hole that gobbles everything up and regurgitates it, in the eternal process of maintaining business as usual.'' (Sept.)
Library JournalEmbittered by his ``useless life and proximate death,'' Aram drops out, forsaking his wife and her jet-set New York friends for his native Europe. The continent he finds is a parody of the world he knew as a child, when he traveled westward on grands trains de luxe from his home in the Balkans. And so, masochist that he is, he books a ticket on the newly refurbished Orient Express, a ``Disneyland choo-choo'' version of his own past. Previously, von Rezzori has lamented the passing of modern Europe's Golden Age with great eloquence ( The Snows of Yesteryear , LJ 11/15/89). Here, his vision is sour and his protagonist a consummate bore. Not recommended.--Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id.
Eloise KinneyIn this haunting novel by the author of "The Snows of Yesteryear" and "The Anti-Semite", an aimless journey around the world prompts the equally unstructured wanderings of the mind. Unable to cope with his duplicitous behavior toward his wife, Linda, and his lover, Denise, 65-year-old Aram simply leaves; when he finds himself in Vienna clutching a brochure for the Orient Express, he begins to examine his life: "His memory wasn't drugged, as it seemed to be with others, but it tucked its tail between its legs." In introspective chapters--sometimes less than a page long--headed with whimsical titles ("Escape Banality with Banalities," "It's the Set That Makes the Play"), Aram reflects on the distances he's kept from others and himself. Even when he books passage on the Orient Express, it is more of the same: a journey through a life where all jewels, including Europe and America, are discovered to be baubles, and out of reach at that. A brooding depiction of a soul that thinks but doesn't feel.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- 1st American ed
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