Buarque, a Brazilian pop star and all-around cultural figure, has written a Jerzy Kosinski-like nightmare novel, very short, about a Brazilian man without qualities--a wanderer within a landscape of paranoia, danger, social fracture, and violence. The narrator has a rich sister living ensconced in the hills above the festering slums, a sister who supports him but whose security is hardly more solid than his feckless own. Awakened one morning by a menacing man at the door to redress some strong grievance, the narrator flees out his window and thereafter in the book is on the run, thrust here into his sister's wealthy milieu, there into the abysmal poverty of the amoral underclass. Maybe in Brazil the allegory has more tang, but in English (and in Peter Bush's very British translation) the novel seems weightless, supported mostly by the web of jump-cuts that form Buarque's cinematic prose, a style that goes stale after ten pages. Styrofoam existentialism.