In a fine translation from the French (it is the winner of the Prix des Deux Magots- encore un Prix?) this novel takes place on the author's native Isle of Mauritius where a club-footed law clerk tells the story, looking backward, some 32 years later. It has a somnolent, shimmering, brooding cast for this island is in fact a Toteninsl where death is a presence more real than spectral, and existence is reduced to an almost unbearable loneliness and emptiness. The story itself, classic in its simplicity, deals with Andre, the seven year old son of an agitator manque who has drifted into debt, drink and petty crime when the boy is sent to stay with his uncle- also a relative of the narrator. The latter takes a possessive, destructive interest in the child and tries to shatter the child's susceptibility to an old sea captain and his legends of ""sirens and sea lions and magical manatees""; the uncle, in turn, is just as determined to annul the boy's feelings for his father. And as the child's images, illusions and idels disintegrate and he lies ""unobtrusively dying"", together they succeed in killing the thing they love and are left with ""bones and silence and absence"".... A special book with a special fascination, much of which is dependent on the enervating, insistent, brilliant mood and montage it so successfully establishes. A market to suggest- that of Maria Dermout.