By Maxim Biller
224 pages. Simon & Schuster.
The course of true love is bumpy indeed for the couples in Love Today (Simon & Schuster), Maxim Biller's first story collection to be translated into English. Set mainly in Germany and the Czech Republic, with side trips to Tel Aviv, France, and New York, these wry, elliptical narratives chart the passions and the discontents of men and women who vanish from each other's lives and reappear without notice, and whom Biller often catches at the moment of confronting the mystery of what keeps them together, or what has driven them apart. In "Seven Attempts at Loving," after a long separation childhood sweethearts meet by accident at a tram stop in Prague; in "Baghdad at Seven-Thirty," a man and his much younger girlfriend watch war news coverage in a bar, straining for a glimpse of the man's American soldier son, about to be deployed to Kuwait; and in "The Architect," an artist named Splash and his Lebanese lover distract themselves from their problems by spying on a neighbor. Deceptively transparent, Biller's brief, gossamer fictions may remind you of narrative poems in their ability to simultaneously elude and haunt you.