In an affecting afterword Cuban poet Padilla summarizes the role this novel had in his ultimate leavetaking of Cuba--after great governmental pressure, harassment, and imprisonment. The novel, the Castro state felt, was dangerous. And so it indeed turns out to be: a highly un-sanguine, unflattering portrait of the intellectual/spiritual murder which the Cuban revolution has wrought on its artists and thinkers--as encapsulized in the careers of two men. Gregorio is a writer. Julio is an architect-turned-translator. Both are crippled by the dearth of freedom, the decay, and the anomie of scientific revolution, Cuban-style. Gregorio is blocked; Julio becomes ever more blindly and cruelly macho. (Both men behave pathetically with women.) And, as alter-egos, the two artists combine well to construct one whole yet vitiated soul. Unfortunately, however, the existential dilemmas of the enervated Gregorio/Julio character(s) are far less involving and specific than Padilla's journalistic sidelights on Cuba under Castro: Havana's crumbling physical exterior; a diabetic woman who sells her urine to people (who will then get more food rations based on the phony urinanalysis); the mysterious disappearances; the starry-eyed Third World writers who come to visit. (""They carry the toxin within them, passion in anticipation, love for charismatics."") So the result is a moody, depressed novel, not quite fulfilled, and strongest when it takes off on reportorial tangents. Padilla's memoirs, soon to be published, will perhaps supply the full-bodied, riveting testimony that's only hinted at here--in scattered, if occasionally compelling form.