The work of Donoso--the driest, most finicky, and bookish of the Latin American Boom-generation writers--not only seems like a footnote to the lusher talents of Garc°a M†rquez and Vargas Llosa but often, as here, to be about footnotes itself. The two novellas here have a curatorial or library-ish mood about them. In the first, Taratuta, a writer becomes intrigued (for no discernible reason other than that such intrigue will provide us with this tale) with the appearance in Russian Revolution history of a redheaded terrorist named Taratuta, an intimate of Lenin's who was instrumental in disposing of a dowry that would be used to finance the revolution. The writer by luck finds a descendant of this Taratuta--a young boor who bears his heritage with ignorance and complication both--Donoso's rather tame point being, presumably, that history wants nothing more than to shrug itself off as fast as it can and assume other guises. There's a stab at comedy here- -wild-goose-chasing after what's buried under obscurity, and then discovering new obscurity--which is echoed in the second piece, Still Life With Pipe. A pedantic young man becomes obsessed with a forgotten Chilean painter--only to find that art lives not only in memory but in perpetual reduplication. Juiceless exercises.