Benet, like Juan Goytisolo (Makbara, Juan the Landless), is a highly intellectual contemporary Spanish novelist who's not afraid of knotty forms. This novel consists of a single long paragraph, a ""meditation"" on the provincial, the erotic, the obsessional, the conscious. Set in a Catalonian area called RegiÃ³n, the book casts disparate elements--bits of family history, the story of a local inn owned by a mysterious and dusky woman, the effect of the civil war, incest and sexual implacabilities--into a stream of apothegms and snaky reflections: "". . . hence the process that binds together two families of abstractions dominated by the word doesn't take place by means of a biunivocal and unequivocal relationship between both series, but, rather, on the contrary, through a multivalent projection that can place in relation very diverse ideas with one single emotion. . . ."" Clearly, Benet is not interested in writing anything like a novel here--and even virtuoso translator Rabassa fails to loosen up this language, to let in imagination through its oppressively dense strands. A lifeless brick, then, of daunting, not terribly original material--only for those with an academic perspective.