This first English translation of a 1973 novel by Chilean writer and former exile Dorfman (Widows, 1983; The Last Song of Manuel Sendero, 1986; Mascara, 1988), like other novels that rely on a specific political subtext, now seems not only dated but tendentious. Intending to instruct as much as record, it's a pastiche of book reviews, critiques, the odd bit of metafiction--Dorfman appears toward the end to explain the purpose of the book to a reporter--and parts of an ongoing novel. Each fragment describes in some degree Chile's past, the growth of revolutionary support, the revolution that Allende created, and the subsequent threat to that revolution in the early 1970's. And each book reviewed has political implications: a mystery story becomes an exploration of the value of literature in totalitarian societies; another, set in a factory about to be nationalized, analyzes the value of collective action; others indict American materialism and destruction, and the novel that appears as excerpts throughout the book is an account of what moves a group of friends to political action. The concept is bold, and there are many passages of powerful, impassioned writing, but while paeans to nationalization, collective action, and indictments of the US have their place, it is not in this novel of ideas, hindered by its need for more subtlety, more universality. Disappointing.