Patient ($14.95 paperback original; Dec.; 128 pp.; 0-935480-90-0): This exhilarating allegory, which its Argentinean author first published in 1980, records with deadpan (bedpan?) wit the odyssey of its unnamed narrator throughout the bureaucratic indifference of a busy state hospital to which he's admitted for routine tests. Apparently mistaken for another patient, he undergoes repeated examinations and delays, a surgical procedure (what was removed is not revealed), the loss of his job (hospital bills absorb his severance pay) and apartment, and the departures of relatives and friends who've grown tired of visiting him. Shua deftly locates the whole comic nightmare within the reeling consciousness of its befuddled, indignant, and eventually, resigned victim. A terrific first novel.