The Balloonist

by MacDonald Harris. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $6.95. There really was a Swedish aeronaut who tried to reach the North Pole by balloon, and perished. That is the one fact underlying Mr. Harris’ bittersweet fantasy about man’s struggle with his assorted enemies: machines, nature, woman, and his own intelligence. The tale is elegantly written and artfully constructed, an ironic comedy which ultimately becomes truly moving.