Doctor Criminale

Malcolm Bradbury, Author
Malcolm Bradbury, Author Viking Books $22 (352p) ISBN 978-0-670-84677-1
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-14-023167-0
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British novelist and critic Bradbury has a wicked satirical eye for academic and literary pretensions, and he has exercised it notably in such works as The History Man and Rates of Exchange. This time, although his eye is no less sharp, his target is altogether larger: nothing less than the role of the European intellectual at a time of the collapse of nations. national unrest. Hero Francis Jay is a trendy but basically decent ``journo''--a literary scribbler for London's Sunday papers. Inveigled by a rapacious girlfriend into researching a TV show about the mysterious Bazlo Criminale, a world-renowned philosopher who has dwelt with apparent ease on both sides of the former Iron Curtain, Jay sets off to find his man. By way of Vienna and Budapest, he runs Criminale to earth at a hilarious literary-political conference at an American millionaire's villa in North Italy and begins to observe him; by the time he has met and talked to him--and also met a former wife living in Argentina, bedded a former girlfriend and thought somewhat beyond his usual scope--Jay has decided that life, even the intellectual life, is both more serious and more perilous than his glib worldview has allowed for. So the novel is high comedy with a quite serious undertone, never less than brilliantly entertaining and written with considerable sophistication; Bradbury has even performed the difficult feat of creating a great philosopher who is as magnetic on the page as he is said to be in life. (Oct.)
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