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This is a very Italian book, reminiscent of Italo Calvino and Roberto Calasso. Part history, part philosophy, part travelogue, this is literature in the richest, most amply rewarding sense. Writing with tremendous exuberance, Claudio Magris has produced a paean to what Hölderlin called “the river of melody”–the Danube, Europe’s main artery, and the heart of that elusive but fascinating zone known as Mitteleuropa. Magris is certainly erudite, and not afraid of displaying his erudition, but he also has a fine sense of humor and an eye for the absurd. According to one eminent sedimentologist, he tells us, the source of the Danube is a leaky tap in a remote mountain farmhouse. And of course, the one color it isn’t, ever, is blue. The Hungarians call it blond, apparently. “Muddy yellow” might be more accurate, says the author. His greatest passion, however, is people: poets, singers, murderers, emperors, Dracula, Kafka, Wittgenstein , Josef Mengele–all human life is here. And it makes doubly fascinating reading for having been written back in 1986, when brutes like Ceaucescu were still in power and the Iron Curtain was still in place, though beginning to tremble slightly in the wind of history. –Christopher Hart,
ISBN: 9788811670698