A TRAVELER'S TALE
In Dark Diversions, acclaimed author John Ralston Saul stages a black comedy of international proportions that takes the reader from New York to Paris to Morocco to Haiti. When he's not encountering dictators in Third World hot spots, Saul's unnamed journalist narrator moves in privileged circles on both sides of the Atlantic, insinuating himself into the lives of well-to-do aristocrats. Through his exploits we experience a fascinating world of secret lovers, exiled princesses, death by veganism, and religious heresies. The emotional fireworks of these inhabitants of the First World are sharply juxtaposed with the political infighting of the dictators and the corruption, double-dealing, and fawning that attend them. But as he becomes further enmeshed in these worlds, the outsider status of the narrator grows more ambiguous: Is he a documentarian of privileged foibles and fundamental inequity, or an embodiment of the very "dark diversions" he chronicles?
mrs. revere took the steps one at a time, down from the hotel to the terrace, mauve hair floating above her in a baroque cloud. Only the Holy Ghost and a host of angels were lacking. Her fingers, two stones on each hand, gathered up the painted gandura lest it catch in the gold of her sandals. Italian sun overlit the way, casting shadows beneath each line on her face and reflecting off the stones.
“What a surprise, dear! What a surprise.” It was the voice of a trumpeter swan, not without vibrations of sexual warmth. “But what in God’s name are you doing here?” The words seemed to be a comment on the guests at the other tables. The hotel was considered by some to be the finest in Italy.
I rose to give the old woman an affectionate kiss. There was something in the way, a second later, she both ignored the waiter, who manoeuvred a chair to meet her descending backside, and yet accepted the wicker with enough pleasure to imply gratitude that revealed beneath her Upper East Side exterior the hint of origins not unlike his own.
“I was passing this way. A friend mentioned you were staying here.”
“Oh, you’re always passing, dear boy. Always on the way somewhere. What friend? That pretty girl staying with the Franklins, I suppose.” She tidied the floating cloth about her. “But then, why stop? Better to pass on by. You’re so young, you can afford to. So long as you stay lean.” She ran a hand over my thigh with feeling, then twisted up to the waiter. “Portami un bicchiere de Prosecco, caro. Freddissimo!” And back to...
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“[A] lean, caustic and darkly comic yarn.”
— Toronto Star
“A delightful novel, invigoratingly wicked.”
— Le Monde
“An ingenious read, Dark Diversions will be a solid end-of-summer choice for a wide and varied audience.”
— Winnipeg Free Press