Written in English by Barcelona native Felipe Alfau, this wildly surreal 1936 fable mirrors Spain in moral decay, on the eve of Franco's takeover. Among the bizarre characters we meet are Garcia, a prematurely white-haired poet who becomes a fingerprint analyst; Dona Valverde, a pious widow who enjoys touching corpses at funerals; and Sister Carmela, a nun who seemingly elopes with her own brother. Strangest of all is Senor Olózaga—an olive-skinned giant and ex-butterfly charmer in a circus—who was reared by Spanish monks in China and now runs an agency for selling dead people's clothes. The sundry misfits gather at the Cafe of the Crazy in Toledo, where hard-up writers, among them the author, hang out in search of exploitable characters—which he apparently found in abundance.
"You keep reading this hypnotic novel the way a sleeping person wants to keep dreaming."—Publishers Weekly