Picks and Pans Review: Ararat

updated 04/25/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/25/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by D.M. Thomas

"One's life becomes increasingly fictional in middle age," one character in Thomas' new novel says. "There's no longer a great difference between real life and fiction.... But that's a feature of our age generally, don't you think?" That is only one idea that the British poet-novelist plays with in this book, which has poems within stories within stories. The book begins with a, Russian spending a night with a blind woman and improvising a long tale about an ill Soviet poet on a ship bound for the States. The poet meets an old man who tells how he helped perpetrate a holocaust in which more than a million Armenians died at the hands of the Turks; he says he killed again when the Nazis were slaughtering Jews. The Russian poet, meanwhile, is writing a story about a St. Petersburg author who befriends a poor Italian, a genius at reciting spontaneous poems. Throughout, there are references to Armenia and its silvery Mount Ararat, the peak on which Noah supposedly landed his ark. Some events in this book are historically accurate—the massacre of both the Armenians and the Russian Jews being outstanding examples. Sex is an important element. But Ararat has little of the hypnotic effect of Thomas' best-selling The White Hotel. Its main value is as a study in technique: an original writer trying to combine so many disparate elements. (Viking, $13.50)

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