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Rates of Exchange by Malcolm Bradbury

Rates of Exchange (1983)

by Malcolm Bradbury

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'You have a quarrel on hand, I see,' said I, 'with some of the algebraists of Paris; but proceed.'

- Edgar Allan Poe, The Purloined Letter

The language of this country being always upon the flux, the Struldbruggs of one age do not understand those of another, neither are they able after two hundred years to hold any conversation (farther than by a few general words) with their neighbours the mortals, and thus they lie under the disadvantage of living like foreigners in their own country.

- Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels

It seems to me the further east you go the more unpunctual are the trains.

- Bram Stoker, Dracula
For my brother Basil with all my love
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If you should ever happen to make the trip to Slaka, that fine flower of middle European cities, capital of commerce and art, wide streets and gipsy music, then, whatever else you plan to do there, do not, as the travel texts say, neglect to visit the Cathedral of Saint Valdopin: a little outside the town, at the end of the tramway-route, near to the power station, down by the slow, marshy, mosquito-breeding waters of the great River Niyt.
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Slaka! Land of lake and forest, of beetroot and tractor. Slaka! Land whose borders are sometimes here, often further north, and sometimes not at all! Rates of Exchange tells the hilarious story of Dr Petworth on his cultural exchange to the small (and fictional) Eastern European country of Slaka. Pallid and middle-aged, Dr Petworth might appear stuffy, but during his short stay he manages to embroil himself in the thorny thickets of sexual intrigue and love, while still finding time to see the major sites.… (more)

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