To know who I am."" These are the opening words of what you know will be an intensely literary reading experience--preceded as they are by the author's references to St. John of the Cross, Shakespeare, Quasimodo, Brecht, Camus, Artaud and LeRoi Jones. The narrator and central character is Joseph Malan, a black South African actor, jailed, tortured and awaiting his execution for the murder of the white woman whose lover he was. He recalls the ancestry passed on to him, half-history, half-fantasy, a chronicle of subjugation through the generations. Then there is his own wandering through what his revolutionary friend dismisses as the white man's culture. But to Malan the many parts he has played, including an episode with the Royal Shakespeare Company, are the only identities he knows. A sophisticate, an aesthete, a Europeanized intellectual, a dabbler in the philosophy of the East, Malan is truly a character in search of an author. His refusal to leave South Africa and his involvement with the young adventuress however insures the fate he seeks and embraces. All of this has more validity as thesis than as fiction. But more damaging, how much attention can finally be paid to a novel whose characters continually quote authorities who say what they mean so much better than they do?