Following on the heels of last year's much praised The Secret of the Bulls, Bernardo returns to colonial Cuba in a disappointing, fictionalized version of the life of Jos Mart , here depicted as the poet and revolutionary Juli n. Just before setting out to seek his fortune as a writer, teacher and activist in Guatemala, idealistic Juli n proposes marriage to Luc a, a frivolous Cuban woman who desires a trousseau more than political freedom for her country. A man of his word, Juli n feels he must honor his vow even after he meets the girl of his dreams in Guatemala; the woman who shares his passion for freedom is clearly the counterpart to Mart 's ""Ni a de Guatemala."" The choice to portray Mart 's life as fiction seems a lamentable error, since the patriot's real life was more dramatic and eventful than this conventional historical novel conveys. And Bernardo's attempt to sketch a 19th-century society bound by manners, la James or Wharton, but simultaneously stressed by the tumultuous and violent political situation, is thwarted by a text that reads like a screenplay filled out with stage directions. This rushed, awkwardly written work does not do justice to the complexities of Mart 's life. Readers would do better with one of many biographies dealing with the Cuban hero. Agent: Owen Laster. (July) FYI: Bernardo first fictionalized Marti's life in the libretto of his opera, The Child.