Donoso (Curfew, 1988; A House in the Country, 1984; etc.) here portrays a desperate, bitter world of Latin American intellectuals in exile (self-imposed or otherwise) in Spain. The exile in this case is Julio, a Chilean novelist who left after Pinochet's rise; he lives with wife Gloria in the not-quite-fashionable village of Sitges, but is lured to Madrid when a rich painter friend offers his apartment rent-free for a long sublease. Julio has been at work on the great Chilean novel, essentializing the national trauma of the post-Allende years--but the powerful Barcelona agent Nuria Monclus, whose stable includes all the great Boom writers, won't have anything to do with it. Julio's depression (occasionally relieved by peeping in at the gorgeous life of the young noblewoman who lives next door) all but sinks Gloria, who falls apart utterly--a collapse that spins the novel in the direction of a surprise ending as bookish and downbeat as the rest of the story. Donoso captures the exhausted self-consciousness of a writer not at home, the obsessive comparisons and backbiting; and his portrait of a veteran literary marriage is toe-curlingly bleak. Altogether, though, the book has a thin, whiny tone and a clumsy way with dramatization that leaves things flat and unappealing.