excerpts from the book -

"...The heart of Prestwich, the quiet Jewish part of North Manchester. Tall, Victorian Gothic houses where the sun never shone. Engels had lived round the corner, writing by gaslight, and Demetrius took us to see his place on the way. The roof was gone, the windows smashed in - skinned and gutted, it just needed one of those ravenous winds off the moors to devour it completely. A Chinese delegation stood outside, curious... No shrine to the people here. Not even a plaque. They kept checking their mysterious guidebooks, to see if they'd got the right address.

'Right address,' said Demetrius as we drove past, 'wrong philosophy.'

"...By the Great Salt Lake was a vast grey mudflat, covered in fat black flies. God knows what they fed on in the alluvial slime - the lake itself was dead. They flew up into your face with each step. By the lake was a funfair... a kind of water-chute that looks like a tunnel of plastic dustbins, and a bouncy castle. Children were playing in the mud, making mud pies and mud castles. The flies soon covered their work, a buzzing tide little black bodies.

It was so flat, so lonely, so far away from anything beautiful. These were poor people and this was their beach, a thosand miles from the sea."

"...As the bus rolled into Wenceslas Square Nico was at her wits' end. She had nothing left and no one cared.

We parked up outside the elegant Hotel Europa and watched the Russian soldiers' dismal foot patrol, followed by the occasional rusty armoured car. The impression wasn't so much hostile as omnivorously boring. The spotty toy soldiers didn't want to be there, and the people didn't want them there. For the heart of a city it sure was quiet. There were a couple of stalls selling pickled slices of grey fish. Apart from occasional pairs of old ladies with empty shopping bags, everyone seemed to be somehow alone. I realsied when we'd all climbed out of the bus that we were, in the eyes of a totalitarian regime, what constituted a crowd.

As we were directly in front of the Europa, Nico assuemd it must be our hotel, and began lugging her bag towards the entrance. When Demetrius pointed out that we weren't actually staying there, that we didn't, in fact, have any place to stay, she gave him a mighty kick in the balls, a steel-capped castrating avenger. When the heroin was out, Nico always seemed to get sudden bursts of energy.

Demetrius doubled up, gasping for breath, his hands cupping what was left of his retracted testicles. Passers by smirked, but didn't stop. The soldiers expressed a slight consternation as they goose-stepped past, but they didn't stop either. Nothing could alter the mechanical rhythm of the city's artifical heart."

"...We drove along dirt roads, through villages with small squat houses, wooden roofs and white plaster walls with corn hanging up to dry. Oxen would stray into our path. Our progress was so slow that people started coming out of their houses to greet us. Women in headscarves, little boys in short trousers and girls in white dresses. They'd rush up to give us sweetmeats, candied fruit, sugared pieces of oranges and plums. I didn't know if they thought we were something special or whetehr they were just kinder than we were.

I wanted to get away from the bus for a few minutes, just to touch another reality for a moment. At the next gas station I leffed it across the road to a wayside cafe. I ordered a beer and a sllvovitz. There was only one other guy at the bar. His Lada was parked by the window in full view. There was a coffin in the back. I asked him who it was. He couldn't speak English so I pointed. 'Mama,' he said.