The Compass Stone

Fernando Arrabal, Author Grove Press $16.95 (165p) ISBN 978-0-8021-0002-3
Cast as an accidentally discovered memoir written by a nameless young woman, the Spanish dramatist's newly translated work is more fable and parable than conventional novel. Its 18-year-old narrator/heroine, a kind of beautiful, seductive queen bee, shares a crumbling mansion with her aged father, the ""Maimed One,'' and two women called ``The Sisters.'' She has two principal activities: one is speculation on hierarchies in nature and societya persistent inquiry into the relation of human and insect behavior; the other is the dexterous use of a barber's straight razor, slashing the throats of casual acquaintances just as they reach the throes of sexual rapture. Her few friendsan adoring suma wrestler, a painter with bizarre tastesreveal their own oddities. To pass the time, they plan an orgy featuring paranoics, ``depraved couples,'' sado-masochists and even the notorious Marquis de Sade. The reader never doubts that the speaking voice and questioning mind belong not to the beguiling and terrifying girl but to Arrabal himself. Voice and mind are quirkily interesting, but they are too much given to abstruse, obsessive analogies that inevitably slacken, confuse and, ultimately, vitiate dramatic effect and narrative momentum. (November 27)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
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