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 First published in France in 1992, this novel proves more gimmick (pseudonymous author and unsettling sexual premise) than compelling narrative. In Barcelona in 1927 a man named Didac Cabanillas meets and falls madly in love with a woman named Elena Berrocal. Five years later, an unnamed friend recounts their history, patching it together from the story Didac recounted before committing suicide and the version provided by Elena when the narrator bumps into her that fall. Didac was the right-hand man to an opposition big-wig who had once been Elena's lover. Attractive, kind, generous, passionate, and intelligent, he appears a promising catch for any woman. But it remains unclear exactly why Elena chose to pursue a relationship with Didac, since she reveals to the narrator that she never desired him in the conventional sense, never wanted to touch his body or make love with him, and was, in fact, repulsed by his sex. Yet she liked to play games with him and taunt him; she promised to give herself to him only after he had satisfied her nine times in public by fingering her anus, but then reneged on ``the day of reckoning.'' Elena spends much time bemoaning the insensitivity of men and their inability to understand her, but readers of both sexes are more likely to identify with Didac's frustration than with her alienation. The few revelations Elena offers about her past (her father inserted shards of soap into her to alleviate her constipation; she was seduced at 15 by a 40-year-old man) do little to explain her present behavior. And the copious sexual/religious imagery merely makes things murkier. A catchy short story idea drawn out into an unsatisfying and confusing novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1995
ISBN: 1-56897-014-5
Page count: 113pp
Publisher: Northwestern Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1994