A 1956 novel by Cuban novelist Carpentier (1904-1980; The Lost Steps, Explosion in a Cathedral)--more prose poetry than narrative, about two underground men, compromised revolutionaries during pre-Castro times. One of the men, a student, is forever chafing against his inexperience--while the other, a ticket-seller at a theater, has seen too much. Both are recluses, both edge past the fear of exposure to the horror of action and then downward to the anxiety of treachery. But a story is less the point in Carpentier than the technical swirls, the vaporous language, the properly progressive political hue. Apart from some dense, good (if pedantic) pages about the architecture of Havana (""a disorder of orders that mismatched Doric at the axes of a facade with the volutes and scanthus leaves of solemn Corinithians, pompously erected half a block down, between the clotheslines of a laundry whose broken-nosed caryatids supported wooden architraves""), Carpentier's two marginals take air and place only from the author's clotty art-prose. A writer with the most Parnassian pretensions (though not in reality close to a true Parnassian, like Lezama Lima) yet also a cadre-like lack of moral imagination-Carpentier is an odd case. But you'd have to really work to see the definition in this short piece of tract-Impressionism.