Heavy on angst and ennui, this bleak, semisurreal first novel elliptically evokes the moral malaise of a Brazil rife with class tensions and ready to explode. The nameless narrator, a dropout who lives on handouts from his chic, wealthy sister, steals her jewels, acquires a suitcase full of marijuana and gets mixed up with thieves and squatters on his family's ramshackle farm, now overrun by a shantytown gang. A bigger robbery, rape and murder ensue as events spin out of his control. Buarque, a Brazilian singer-songwriter, sprinkles his dark parable with jarring images of societal breakdown--a dead man sitting on a bus amid indifferent passengers, a well-dressed stranger carrying an artificial leg--but neither characters nor plot are absorbing enough to sustain the reader's interest. The protagonist's sister, disdainful ex-wife and distant mother are generic figures, nondescript furniture in a somnambulistic mindscape; the narrative constantly gets sidetracked in imagined future scenarios. Bush's smooth translation faithfully conveys the novel's volatile, hothouse atmosphere. ( Feb. )
A black-sheep son in contemporary Brazil lives in limbo between the stylish, high-security world he has known and the seamy underworld he currently inhabits. And now he needs money. So he roams his anonymous city, pursuing old friends, his ex-wife, his wealthy sister and brother-in-law, and, of course, his mother. But he is disconnected from everything. Even Mother won't answer the phone. Desperate, he steals his sister's jewels, setting in motion a criminal chain reaction that ends with a suitcase full of marijuana, appropriate luggage for his last trip. Buarque's first novel aspires to social commentary but falls into a lifeless recitation of events. Nameless, poorly drawn characters make Turbulence read like a Hollywood ``treatment'' of urban violence in South America. Not recommended. Previewed as Disturbance in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/92.-- Paul E. Hutchison, Bellefonte, Pa.