Cela, a Nobel winner in 1989, first published this shifting, fugal novel in Spain in 1983. In the rainy Galician mountains, a local townsperson is kidnapped and murdered; at book's end, his killing is avenged by his brother, who tells the killer-and-about-to-be-victim: ```It's not me who's killing you, it's the law of the mountain, I cannot stand in the way of the law of the mountain.''' In Cela's world--an almost malevolently folkloric, eccentric, capacious one of absolute knowledge between people--there is never a single agent of free will but only representatives of the fateful mass; death alone (here, either by misfortune or war, the Spanish Civil War of 1939) can differentiate individuals and dispatch them discretely. The pessimism is profane, repetitive, occasionally stunning. But last year's San Camilo, 1936--a book by Cela that in approach is almost identical to this one--is a more successful (and better translated) work. Much here feels mechanical, with grotesqueries piled atop each other too neatly and sequentially; only in its last 50 pages does an ashen commentary reveal itself, and by that time you've been lulled by the technical reiteration. Still, Cela is a brilliant, major figure, any of his works welcome.