A first English translation of the final novel, originally published in 1976, by the Brazilian postmodernist (192478) best known for his complex and challenging (or, if you will, impenetrable) symbolic novel Avalovara (1980). This novel tells multiple stories from which the reader is kept at a series of teasing removes. Its narrator, unnamed, keeps a journal that analyzes and speculates about an unpublished novel written by his late mistress Julia. That novel portrays the life and thoughts of Maria de Franáa, ``a moneyless mulatto heroine lost in . . . the social welfare bureaucracy,'' and also adrift in the slums of So Paulo, subject to recurring fits of madness. Maria is fascinated by newspaper stories, raised to the status of local legend, about a thief named Ana, a bold free spirit who ``represents something she herself will never become.'' The narrator worries over whether he should write a commentary on Julia's novel, given his closeness to its author; nervously seeks evidence of himself within the book--and, when he doesn't find it, begins to doubt that he exists; contrasts Julia's engagÇ sensibility with intricate narrative and rhetorical strategies used by writers before her; and scours her work for connections with the hermetic tradition and specifically the mystic Albertus Magnus, among other arcana. What seems to result--it's by no means clear-- is the narrator's conclusion that art for art's sake and the literature of social purpose are less conflicting opposites than they are inevitably complementary elements in any writer's psyche and any reader's experience of that writer's work. What can be said is that though its structure and argument seem forbiddingly abstruse, and perhaps private, Lins's last work is agreeably crammed with life and color, and thus constitutes a hybrid every bit as intriguing as the interior story within the novel within the journal that appears to be its subject.