The Lizard's Smile

Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro, Author, Ribeiro, Author, Jooao Ubaldo Ribeiro, Author Atheneum Books $21 (355p) ISBN 978-0-689-12125-8
Acid satire and magic realism, erotic raunchiness and spiritualism, fantasy and ecological protest are seamlessly melded in Brazilian novelist Ribeiro's sprawling, exotic, loquacious, captivating novel. Ana Clara is bored with her loveless marriage to health minister Angelo Marcos Barreto, a crass, sexist, racist homophobe (who nevertheless has a gay affair). She adopts a literary persona, ``Suzanna Fleischman,'' and under that pseudonym produces reams of erotic musings that lead to a very funny parody of Molly Bloom's famous ``Penelope'' soliloquy in Ulysses . Ana Clara's affair with tormented, shy Joao Pedroso, a biologist-turned-fishmonger, results in her pregnancy and culminates in a murder. Meanwhile, through a lame witch doctor, Joao stumbles upon a secret genetic engineering project at a local hospital which apparently has produced monstrous hybrids in an attempt to cross humans with chimpanzees. The struggle to unmask and shut down this project pits Dr. Lucio Nemesio, a heartless materialist, against Father Monteirinho, a humanistic priest for whom bioengineering and cruelty to animals are forms of evil. In sensuous, luxuriant prose, beautifully translated, Ribeiro ( An Invincible Memory ) blends sexual, political and social satire in ways that few American writers even attempt. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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