With the fastidious delight of a born observer, Esterhazy's narrator describes the idiosyncrasies of an assortment of women (plus several men pretending to be women) and chronicles his own response in this ambivalent panegyric to Hungarian womanhood. In 97 short chapters, the Homeric catalogue of loves demonstrates Esterhazy's talent for creating full-blooded characters in brief: conniving, elegant, bitchy, vulgar, his women are united by their very human contradictoriness. Also, nearly all of them like sex--a lot. The characters are voraciously physical, a characteristic that Esterhazy gradually links to Hungary's political upheaval, the country's need for new histories and idioms. Despite its structural limitations (the taxonomic format grows tedious), the novel is by turns irreverent and philosophical, and its nervy energy commands the reader's attention. It is a testament to his wry sensibility that, throughout this agile account of the whimsical visitations of Eros to a mortal man, Esterhazy's prose rarely descends into the banality that so often accompanies writing about love and sex. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997 Release date: 12/01/1997 Genre: Fiction
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