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by Peter Fennel“Cities & Countries by Roman Payne is a book about travel, about searching and wandering, about finding greatness in the midst of the world.” Strange adventures meet Alexis when he wanders far from his familiar home in a quest to become a man of the world. What begins as a search for the “Great City,” leads to a wayward and whimsical, romantically poignant, and at times powerfully despairing, jaunt through various cities and countries, far and wide. Along the way, he meets soldiers and hunchbacks, criminals and revolutionaries, madmen and fishermen, goatherds and opium smokers, charlatans, fanatical holy men and beautiful noblemen’s daughters. He encounters glory, suffers poverty and loss. Friends and lovers come and go, while youth gives way to wisdom and experience. Payne speaks to us in his unique timeless tone, mixing mythology, realism and allegory to create a stage for an extraordinary drama that blends comedy, tragedy, gritty prose and magical poetry in an exploration of joy and sorrow, hope and despair.

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