De Motherlant, like Mauriac, is one of the elders of the French literary scene. He has been writing for many, many years and has been better appreciated in Europe than here. This book, his first in twenty-five years, is a still life but the French term nature morte is even more suggestive. It is a portrait, acutely implacable but cadaverously glum, of Celestino Marcilla, a refugee in Paris from the Spanish Civil War in which he had fought twenty year ago. As the friend he is about to lose says, he is a caricature of the man of the left, a throwback, a ""decrepit body and a deliquescent mind."" Celestino sits in a cafe reading, annotating, writing articles, ruminating and recriminating here for pages on end. During their course, he becomes estranged from his friends and his daughter; with no one to talk to, he is gradually obsessed by death-- a fear he sees reflected at the bullfight he watches when he returns briefly to Madrid-presaging his own unexpected end... De Montherlant's preface defines the character he has attempted to create, the ""bogus leftist,"" and idiosyncratic, irrational malcontent. He has succeeded in doing it admirably although it may well be thankless task.