Books: High Currency

RATES OF EXCHANGE by Malcolm Bradbury Knopf; 310 pages; $13.95

He is fortyish, a bit bedraggled, quizzically bemused. He is a professor at a provincial English university, bright in his specialty, perhaps, but farcically inept in worldly matters. He tries to uphold the values of humane liberalism but keeps misplacing them, and occasionally wonders sadly whether they exist any more.

This, in various incarnations, is the prototypical figure who has shambled through all the cracklingly intelligent, funny novels of Britain's Malcolm Bradbury, 51. He appeared as a department chairman undermined by the Beat Generation...

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