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Luys Forest, once a popular Spanish Falangist journalist and novelist but now mostly forgotten, is writing his memoirs at his house on the beach at Calafell. His wild, sexy niece Mariana, a journalist (like her mother, also named Mariana), has come to take up residence and help Forest. But the help is distinctly peculiar: it mostly seems to consist of Mariana's flaunting herself, naked or nearly, at every possible opportunity, propositioning her uncle--and, on the basis of his refusals, sending his libidinous energies ricocheting back into the memoirs. Thus, as he writes, Forest's crimes and bad judgments as a Franco-ist hack give way to a more personal, sexual regret and mea culpa: the illness (fatal) of his wife; his long yen for his sister-in-law (Mariana's mother); and a general revision, frequently sliding into fiction, of his amorous history. (""Half true confessions and half limp excuses"" is niece Mariana's estimation as she types the clean copy.) Furthermore, Forest's confusions of perception soon take on a distinctly apparitional aspect: the physical reappearance of certain old drugs that Forest's wife took; an oil painting of an imaginary vista; the revelation that Mariana's photographer lover Elmyr isn't the boy Forest took him for, but a girl. In all, then: a consummate portrait of a man totally off-balance. And more than that--because, with his political undertones always riding just beneath the sexual surface, MarsÉ (The Fallen) has fashioned a book that's trim and worldly and un-smirky. A fine example of the rejuvenated Spanish novel, achieving more in the eroto-cultural realm (and with less thrum and overdrive) than did Alberto Moravia's recent, not dissimilar Time of Desecration.

Pub Date: Aug. 20th, 1981
Publisher: Little, Brown