Jon M. Tolman, in an introduction, describes this book by Brazilian novelist/poet Ivo as ""a microcosm of violence and corruption"" as well as a political allegory critical of the Vargas regime of mid-century Brazil and the current dictatorship. But though all this may be true, the American reader is likely to take away less politics from this ""tale badly told"" (the novel's disingenuous subtitle) than a kind of conglomerate of history and mood: the sort of magical shuffle plus regional genealogy that is so characteristic of the contemporary Latin-American novel. A wandering fox is killed in the streets of Maceio, in the province of Alagoas--an obviously, but obscurely, symbolic event. A travel agent commits suicide (or was he killed by the Brotherhood, a local mafia?). A whore yearns to work in the established precincts of a brothel. A bastard bachelor is caught and tortured and killed for writing and sending anonymous letters of scandal. A nun meditates on the seamlessness of evil. All these vignettes are mixed up in the sweaty pot of a port-city's locale; and the stew is piquant enough--rococo, sensual. But one gets the feeling that a lot of the original flavors here have been badly spoiled in shipping--and though this montage is frequently interesting, only those highly expert in Brazilian political history will be likely to make much sense of it.