Pinera, one of the major Cuban modernists, died in 1979 after being clapped into an exile of official literary neglect in the Castro years. Cabrera Infante, who contributes a foreward here, notes anecdotally that it was a Pinera volume that Che Guevara, famous literary critic, chose to snatch from a shelf and hurl to the floor when it was found in a postrevolutionary ambassador's residence. Pinera's homosexuality made him pariah enough; the utter cynicism of the literary voice put him beyond the pale. The stories here all have an outrageous calm as they go about suggesting the perverse and appalling. In ""A Few Children,"" a low-level bureaucrat admits to his only occasionally indulged passion: eating infants. Some stories are exaggerated realism, some the pithiest fable--but in all, Pinera's pessimism is the beacon. A valuable introduction in English to a fascinating writer.