This is the final novel of one of the most innovative, comic Brazilian writers of this century. It takes the form of an anonymous high school science teacher’s journal about an unpublished novel written by his deceased lover, a young woman named Julia Marquezim Enone. Her novel’s central character, Maria da Franca, is a destitute and mentally unstable woman at odds with the Brazilian social welfare system, from which she is trying to claim benefits for time spent in a psychiatric hospital. The journal represents the science teacher’s attempt to understand Julia’s novel and, in the process, Julia herself and the relationship they once shared.
Rather than providing him with comfort and a better understanding of his beloved, the teacher’s explorations create an ever-widening circle of questions and fears about himself, her, and finally any attempt to understand anything about anyone. But the narrator’s failures become the reader’s comic delights.
Reminiscent of Flann O’Brien, Manuel Puig, and Laurence Sterne, with this novel Osman Lins takes his rightful place among the major figures of twentieth-century fiction.