After enjoying the insane brilliance of [b:Rex: A Novel|6134954|Rex A Novel|José Manuel Prieto|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328823947s/6134954.jpg|6313517], I got this earlier novel from the library. (It's his second book, but the first to be translated. Rex is his third, but translated into English second; [b:Encyclopedia of a Life in Russia|15811126|Encyclopedia of a Life in Russia|José Manuel Prieto|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1359423121s/15811126.jpg|21536301] is his first, translated third. I think?) Prieto is a Cuban writer, now living in New York City, but these three novels (Esther Allen, who translated the other two, refers to them as a trilogy) stem from the decade-plus he spent in Russia. So take your Russian heavyweights, mix with Latin American aesthetics (more Borges than García Márquez), and add in some cosmopolitan postmodernism (Nabokov above all).... it seems unlikely, but it works.Nocturnal Butterflies doesn't work as well as Rex, though. It's an epistolary novel, nominally consisting of the drafts of seven letters from J., a Cuban smuggling Russian goods to the West, to V., a woman he has met in Istanbul, where he was meeting a Swede to arrange an expedition to the Caucasus to find a rare butterfly. J. is in Livadia, on the Black Sea, and expected V. to join him there, but she only sends letters instead. We read only J.'s drafts (or maybe they're not his drafts—they're narratives, structured according to the intervals between incoming letters, but they're not really addressed to anyone). J. reads not only V.'s letters but piles and piles of books of great letters from history—Russian authors, Abelard and Héloïse, Paul's epistles, you name it. And that's where the book disappoints, because while J.'s character unpeels itself from a noble and scholarly butterfly-hunter to a wannabe lover/smuggler/adventurer—and that's reflected in the prose, which gets more entertaining as the book goes on—what I also wanted, after reading Rex, was for that prose to be so suffused in J.'s epistolary models that the reader couldn't be quite sure of even reading J.'s story any more, rather than some other letter-writer whose consciousness had leaked in.It does that a bit, but not enough. Perhaps the translators aren't quite as skilled as Esther Allen? Nocturnal Butterflies starts off slowly and the pomo pyrotechnics don't really get going until halfway through. And even then they seem muted, subtle—and I don't think subtle is Prieto's thing.If you liked Rex, you'll like this book—but don't expect to like it as much.