The Scorpion-Fish

Robyn Marsack, Translator, Nicolas Bouvier, Author Carcanet Press, $17.95 (123p) ISBN 978-0-85635-551-6
Although it's called fiction, this resonant little book, a delightful repast for the mind, combines a special kind of travel writing with meditations on strange lands and cultures, a contemplative diary and some peculiar inquiries into nature, human and animal. The narrator, a Swiss historian in the final months of a long journey in the East, settles into the 117th room he has occupied en route, this one on a ""chimerical island'' in the heart of India. Down on his luck, nearly broke, feverish, still searching for his elusive identity, he acquires a book on Indian insects and thereupon shifts his microscopic observation from ``that pretty world of killers,'' the crawling verminous creatures in his room, to people in the vicinitycafe habitues, charlatans and fake exorcists; indolent, decadent land-owners; a levitating priest who's been dead for six years; a huge Tamil merchant-woman who talks to the titular Scorpion-Fish, a combination of exotic beauty and deadly menace that symbolizes for the narrator the Eastern scene, climate, character and culture. The book is well-crafted in a series of short, witty, acerbic chapters, finely written and translated, a welcome introduction to a writer of remarkable skill. (September 24)
Reviewed on: 06/26/1987
Release date: 07/01/1987
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