Debut fiction (first published in 1989 in Argentina) that evokes recent Argentinean history and offers occasionally obscure set-pieces of magic realism with a feminist angle. Characters appear and reappear in new incarnations as Borinsky (now a professor at Boston University) tells of a country where ``the shame of silence kept growing among the people [who] lived like tiles of a Byzantine mosaic, each one trying to keep to its own color and occupation without knowing the pattern of the whole.'' The women here are also like those tiles--some even believing they know the pattern only to discover that they've been as badly misled as everyone else. Michaela, who'd ``begun to dream memories in technicolor,'' invents a magic sponge that--by making all women beautiful--``displeases the men who prized the ugliness of their women intensely because it allowed them to have mistresses.'' Carmen, who wants ``to sing the praises of marriage,'' marries Francisco; he in turn leaves her for beautiful, luxury-loving Cristina, who ``inspired him to make patriotic speeches.'' Together, the two rule the country but simultaneously prepare for exile abroad. When Cristina suspects that a beloved advisor has been murdered by Francisco's thugs, the muchachas, she's exiled to an elaborate underground world that the muchachas have built to resemble England, complete with a Harrod's. Another woman, Rosario, temporarily consoles Francisco but leaves him to become a nun. The underground constructions are discovered, and exiles begin to return, ``now expecting nothing.'' Some marvelously imaginative writing, and the oblique sendups of recent women autocrats like the two Per¢ns and Imelda Marcos add a light touch to an otherwise dark, often dense tale of a country only now coming out of its own interior exile. Challenging.