An enveloping haze of dedicated rationalism fails to save a young scientist from the less lofty, but much more real, ways of the world. Don Pedro, not yet a doctor and far from a man, dreams of finding a cure for cancer in his tumorous mice imported from Illinois. The madrileno world has other dreams: his shantytown assistant concentrates on possible profits in the illicit mice trade, his lower-class landlady prepares a match with her granddaughter, and his intellectual friend Matias dreams of very little, but his presence completes the socio-economic roster. The incongruity of the different social strata forms the novel's superstructure, preparing Pedro's downfall in a collusion of circumstance and his own weakness. In his scientific fervor he performs an illegal abortion in shantytown, which--in a somewhat breathless, chain reaction--kills the girl whose would-be lover then murders Pedro's fiancee. He loses his job and with it every shred of social and professional respectability. If this rather familiar plot succeeds in being tragic, then the tragedy lies in Pedro's thinking too much, a flaw that carries over into the heavy intellectualism of the writing. The narrational leaps from boarding house to shanty to intellectual cafÃ‰ do not quite succeed in keeping Pedro's rational voice from labored intrusion when it ought to be silent. Madrid speaks, however, in its most ambitious and ambivalent tongue, imparting a degree of power to the novel. More interesting than arresting, it is at least a welcome break in the silence of translations from contemporary Spain.