Misguided Lives

Alain Elkann, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $18.95 (291p) ISBN 978-0-87113-295-6
A minimalist Italian thriller with a cast of dozens, this dizzying roundelay set in Paris, Milan, London and Zurich spotlights a loosely knit group of beautiful people who seek meaning in their lives through sex, espionage, drugs or politics. The two KGB-connected spies in the lot are a study in contrasts: Marziano, an underpaid professor ashamed of his undercover chores, and frivolous Jean-Marie, who sees himself as an improver of international relations. Other misfits include Dennis, a Turin publisher seeking the perfect woman; Marina, who ditches her husband Marziano for an American athlete; facile novelist Bosco, whose new book may hold a clue to why all these people keep dropping likes flies. Unfolding in 86 numbered vignettes, the story relentlessly dissects the characters' marriages, divorces, affairs, couplings and fantasies, ranging through murders, a kidnapping-cum-blinding, a strangling and a suicide. Yet this group portrait remains as aloof and impersonal as its crazed terrorist anti-heroine. Tapping the conventions of spy novel, mystery, soap opera and comedy of manners, Elkann ( Piazza Carignano ) has concocted an inventive, elegant but hollow entertainment. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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