Like many novels arising from war-ravaged countries, this Portuguese import is concerned with the enormity of war's brutalizing effect upon the individual. The narrator, imprisoned for a political crime during the last war, hears the story of his compatriot, Cidro, known by many names, including ""Jackal,"" under which name he worked as executioner for a captian in the French Foreign Legion. Cidro's past reveals the gradual smothering of love, the turn toward death as a means to go on living. Life had been rigorous and cruel to Cidro. He had been blessed in the village and later cursed because of a Christmas Eve birth in a stable, and after a bitter childhood had been chosen as an informer by his employer in a liquor warehouse. The love of an old man and the love of the old man's young wife brought a sad voluntary exile and death came close in the loss of a dear friend in an accident with a machine. A term in the French Foreign Legion and Cidro absorbed the smell of death and violence, being profligate in his killing. Unable to understand why the death of a personal enemy is not to be condoned or praised as his executions had been, Cidro awaits his fate in prison, and the narrator has no answer for himself or for the defeated, dehumanized abandoned killer of his own kind. Somber, disturbing.