cover image Danilov, the Violist

Danilov, the Violist

Vladimir Orlov. William Morrow & Company, $18.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-688-04655-2

Danilov, a mild-mannered half-demon sent to earth to stir things up and confuse mankind, is so in love with this planetand a particular earthling called Natashathat he fears his bosses will recall him. So he commits some minor mayhem in the nature of earthquakes and thunderstorms, but not until a bona fide demon visits him from outer space does earth truly shake in its orbit. The two fight a duel over the winsome Natasha, havoc ensues and Danilov is, as he feared, recalled. Wandering in space, he is confronted by the realization that this is truly pandemonium, where no love exists, where knowledge is primitive and its purveyors frivolous and, above all, where music, Danilov's obsession, is never heard. Eventually he is tried and defends himself so ably that he is consigned to earth forever, consigned, moreover, to a sensibility so pure that he hears not only every musical nuancepunishment enough in the demonic lexiconbut the heartbeats of sufferers all over the world. Ironic and often funny, superbly translated, this first novel by a Russian writer living in Moscow is, disappointingly, so diffuse that it fails to grab hold and insist upon being read. (July 21)