These 14 compelling stories introduce to American readers a Trinidad-born writer of exceptional talent and pedigree who now lives in Canada, where this ample collection was first published last year. Nephew of V.S. Naipaul and his late brother Shiva, Bissoondath shares with his uncles a post-colonial vision of cultural despair and political disillusionment. Like them, he pays fictional witness to a world of casual violence and blind terror. The best stories here delve right into the heart of darkness--Third World countries ravaged by ""the cynical politics of corruption."" In the title tale, a small-business man discovers that ""nowhere was truth more relative"" than in the ""urchin nation"" whose independence means penurious exile for him. For the cemetery keeper of ""Counting the Wind,"" curiosity reveals mass executions and burials, though he must record them as ""natural"" deaths. ""An Arrangement of Shadows"" unerringly portrays a burntout case, an Englishwoman who first came to the islands hoping to prepare young men for Oxbridge, but years later satisfies herself with bedding the native youths--discovery by her superiors leads to dishonor and suicide. Many of Bissoondath's finest stories concern intercontinental refugees from cultures of poverty and oppression: ""The Cage"" is a fictional memoir of a young Japanese woman who leaves her tyrannical father's home only to suffer ""a sickness of the soul"" in distant Canada; ""Dancing,"" another first-person narrative, captures the fear and wonder of a poor black maid from Trinidad as she begins life anew in alien Toronto; ""Continental Drift"" perfectly describes the ""wanderlost"" that afflicts so many of Bissoondath's weary protagonists. Despite moments of Naipaul-like superciliousness, these unforgettable stories command attention for their admirable compassion.