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This review is taken from PN Review 73, Volume 16 Number 5, May - June 1990.

INDIAN LABYRINTHS Antonio Tabucchi, Indian Nocturne, translated by Tim Parks, Chatto & Windus, £10.95

India is where you go to find yourself; this fact, long known to readers of Hermann Hesse, is now a commonplace among western tourists. When asked his views about Hesse, the traveller of Indian Nocturne becomes evasive: his only reading matter is India, a Travel Survival Kit. A lot of people lose their way in India', he is told, 'it's a country specially made for that'. In this nocturnal India first glances can deceive: the façade of the Taj Mahal Inter-Continental Hotel belies the existence of crows who drop bits of human corpse into the water supply. The monkey playing with the boy in the bus station is in reality a deformed Jain prophet with the power to tell fortunes. That which is present is maya, the outward appearance of the world, which is mere illusion. The traveller is a somnambulist, absent from himself, present only in a dream. In a Hesse-style device, the duality of the self is given a fictional realisation in separate characters. The traveller is searching for his lost friend and alter ego, Xavier, following a set of vague clues and his own, already faded memory, retracing a journey which is his own journey, which is perhaps taking place for the first time. The clues to Xavier's whereabouts are therefore keys to potential identities: the people he encounters are all, like himself, pilgrims. The director of the Theosophical Society casts around in written knowledge, while the thief seems to give reality to her empty name ...


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