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A literary novel of political international intrigue by


Anthony Steyning


Final, 2005 Draft



How do people coming out of some indelibly restrictive system cope with the free, wider world? Can they really ever feel liberated as they remain haunted by their via cruxis?

This is the story of Tristan, a wandering Hungarian journalist and east-block refugee who finds himself looked down upon in the West by people not even remotely superior to him. In London he runs into an eccentric but generous American doctor and his Chinese lady-friend who’ll soon accompany him on a journey leading back to... himself. But a return to his native Budapest remains elusive as private doubts about his role in the service of the old red regime, linger. He ultimately redeems himself by defeating a Chilean credit-card communist, forcing this Pharisee and broadcaster to fade away and lie and cheat in another place another day. He had crossed this 'educated whore' of a man's path earlier, at the Montreal Press Club, following a prolongued Havana stay and eventual freedom via a Florida beach. But this time gets ready to settle old scores, with a little help from some diabolical friends...

Meanwhile Tristan’s final home-coming gets even more complicated and is briefly overshadowed by the unexpected love springing up between him and Chinese Kay-Kay. It comes at the expense of the third member of our new, not-so-holy trinity: Jonathan, the doctor, most belatedly also declaring his love for her.

This story involves politics but only in the way that these can trap people. It’s a spell-binding narrative replete with wicked humor exposing the lacerating effect of dictatorships large and small. In a sense this is a wider 'Jules et Jim'; readers won't find it hard to empathize with these occupants of the late eighties, communism unraveling, the Berlin Wall coming down before the world's eyes.

November 2004



Chapter 1

It was the autumn of 1989. Jonathan Blul, the peripatetic surgeon from America had just bought his Sunday Times, then crossed the road hoping to sit down with it while keeping an eye out for his female friend. It was nine-thirty or closer to ten perhaps. He was lucky, cutting through Covent Garden most eateries were closed but La Coupole, a French-style brasserie near Bow Street’s Magistrate’s Court had already opened its doors. Looking through its plate glass windows he spotted a handful of patrons reading and munching away, but not apparently saying much--- like everywhere else, Sunday morning slow going here. As for Dr Blul, he was up and about only because he hadn’t slept well. Twelve hours earlier Kay-Kay, his obdurate Chinese lady-friend and travel companion had put on a vanishing act. The chance of finding her here were nil of course but even supposedly clever and disciplined surgeons can be irrational; the trick is to avoid people in this mood and the night before it was exactly what the tai-tai, a Chinese woman of certain standing, had done. But who knows what hides behind the tranquil façade of many a Sunday morning coffee-sipping client, putting on airs of unprepossessing innocence? And who could have guessed the doctor was the type of man who would perpetrate a small self-mutilation to have a woman he cannot have, dote over him? Yet this also was precisely the case, the blood-stained bandage round his left wrist visible proof of his sorry indiscretion, the long term effect of which only diminished through some equally dramatic show of contrition. But first things first as presently Dr Blul entered the establishment. His head throbbing from the previous night’s mess, he picked a table near the front-door from where he could peer back out over the pavement in the hope of catching his oriental friend. He didn’t pay particular attention to other patrons there but did notice they all looked foreign, forced out of their cage so to speak, especially the chap with a Panama hat nearest him.

Certainly Dr Blul had gone too far with Kay-Kay, half expecting to be rebuked by her, though hardly in this fashion. She had strutted demonstratively out of the room they shared in a nearby hotel, harshly shutting the door behind her, expressing her independence with staggering clarity. Not that she isn’t free to come and go as she pleases, but in a new country, a new city, out alone all night: where on earth could she have gone?

It was slowly getting bright out and warmer too, the rain long stopped. The doctor wondered what to do about his Chinese paramour, even though she would never refer to herself in these terms. But with her flying the coop after he had pulled that messy and admittedly youthful prank, shouldn’t he go talk to the police, find out where she had run? The stains on the white rug, the blood in the room were his own, not hers. He had nothing to fear but everything to worry about. He sighed, his head ached from hitting the town after she had left him and he now also got a sharp jolt after his wrist involuntarily hit the side of the rattan and glass table when unfolding his Times. So that frankly speaking he was in a bit of a state, this late October London morning approaching the end of a century already somewhat turbulent.

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