Coming from Warsaw for graduate study in literature, 30-year-old Tereza meetsacross a study table at the New York Public Librarythe Brazilian José, on a three-month grant in NYC doing research on cannibalism and religion. Love at first sight ("as if my body had already surrendered to his touch") brings the two together again, and soon they're living in Tereza's apartment, united by a love so passionate that words are unnecessary, where "nothing but the senses exist." Too bad José has a wife and childwho both come from Brazil for a visit to San Francisco so that he's got to fly out to see them. Tereza follows, deciding more or less then that she'll never "let us part"but instead will internalize José in a union forever by killing and then eating him (there are references to the Andean plane crash whose survivors found Christian symbolism in eating their dead comrades). As Tereza plans José's death, the novel slides helplessly ("My eye was caught by a set of six large knives. . . which said `all purpose' ") toward comedy. Poor José, after ingesting vodka, pills, and being smothered, still has to be tasted and cut up for disposal (Tereza's bought an electric saw). Even then, he's still in the way ("I stood under the shower. José was still lying in the tub. Without his legs he took up only three quarters of it, so there was room for me as well. Nevertheless, I had to be careful not to step on him").
If intended as political satire or an allegory of love or madness, the point is missed, leaving just highbrow hooey.