Soriano here writes an Argentine road-novel that, in muted comic tones, seems to yearn to be allegory--to suggest perhaps that post-Falklands-War Argentina is a vast wasteland, piled-on by absurdities, in which only the scammer and confidence-man will do okay. The narrator finds himself lost in the middle of nowhere when a train he's been riding on breaks down. Penniless--though he was a computer specialist before things went unexplainedly bad for him- -he hitches a ride with an ex-circus-star, Coluccini, on his own way to Bolivia--and in due course the two will pick up and accumulate Lem, a gambler; the fortuneteller Nadia; a two-bit entrepreneur named Barrante, as well as a freelance priest. The story climaxes with a rigged poker game that is meant to solve the problems of the whole off-center crew--to predictably chaotic results. Sour-taste pessimism tries to enliven the comedy and vice versa, Ö la Beckett; and Soriano's (Winter Quarters, 1989) gentle sendup of various kinds of genre writing may strike an appreciative chord in sophisticated Latin American readers. But in translation the novel seems colorless and shaggy-dog-storyish, never snappy enough to justify its obvious but boggy pleasure in its own eccentricities.