Helen DeWitt as writer of The Last Samurai goes straight to the top to join Swift, Joyce & Beckett as my literary heroes. This work of black humour and dead-pan virtuosity brings the Enlightenment into the present day vernacular. The selection sequence from Kurasawa's movie the 7 Samurai provides the frame by which the boy Ludo explores the seven potential candidates for the role of father. Each man is tested by his ability to "parry the blow" of paternity, so prove himself a real samurai. Each of these encounters is a tragi-comic gem in its own right up to the final one, the Last Samurai, the one who has the answers. The elan with which DeWitt sustains the development of plot and character up to the triumphant last word is breathtaking. Yet there is more to it than the intricacies of the story. The understanding of language, art, music, games is underpinned with passages of astounding beauty. It is also profound. Whether in Tescos or the steppes of Asia, there is cruelty and heroism, suicidal despair and life-redeeming hope. Buy the hardback version. This is a book to cherish, buried treasures of wit and meaning emerging with each re-reading, and the decorative character of the typography, pages of Japanese characters and mathematical calculations inserted seamlessly as integral illustrations, as pictures of the mind at work, is enhanced by the quality of print and paper, worthy of a present-day Gutenberg.