cover image Journey to the Land of the Flies and Other Travels

Journey to the Land of the Flies and Other Travels

Aldo Buzzi. Random House (NY), $23 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-44810-5

This entertaining collection of essays, disguised as travel writing, is more of a droll jaunt through the well-stocked mind of an Italian architect, cineaste and publisher in whom places arouse extraordinary ruminations. These pieces, some of them new, others previously published, are funny, odd, learned and personal. In the town of Crescenzago, en route to Gorgonzola, Buzzi is served by a pretty waitress who smells of roses, Parma violets and vanilla, which reminds him that the bosom of Joan of Aragon was said to have smelled of ripe peaches and that after gazing at the portrait of Joan in the Royal Academy in London, he set out to find a perfumer who could provide him with a scent of peaches. He notes that King Louis XIV of France invented a form of dining in which the ladies were dressed only in powder, perfume and jewels. A Russian log house in Milan sets Buzzi off on a funny discourse about vodka, cabbage soup, the Siberian climate, Moscow's cockroaches, Chekhov, Gorki, Dostoyevski, Tolstoy, Petersburg streets and the similarities between the U.S. and Russia (both ignorant of the bidet, for one thing). In similar fashion, he hops around London, Ixtapa, Lake Como, Milan, Sicily and Djakarta, with his mind on food, Heraclitus, Zeno, Heine, his father and the thought, among many others, that Eve, not being born of woman, could not have had a belly button. A delightful book. (Feb.)