También esto pasará (This Will Also Pass)
Anagrama, 2015, 179 pg
I go back and forth on this book, and have done it for a while. And still I can’t quite decide what I think of it. At times it is the story of a woman grieving for her difficult mother and at others its a wandering tale of self discovery, each of which are intertwined and form an analysis of the narrator. A wildly successful book in its 6th printing (when I bought it), También esto pasará is a short book whose brevity is at first charming, then later, disappointing.
Blanca, the narrator, has lost her mother recently. It is a profound loss, one that marks her narration with pain and a longing for a time past. She describes it in a resonant detail, finding in the ordinary, the smell of her mother in her sweater, for example, traces to a woman who is no longer there. It is both a chance to find solace and loss. Blanca is also willing to describe more than the safe notes of grief. In one passage she notes,
Que yo sepa, lo único que no da resaca y que disipa momoentáneamente la muerte—también la vida—es el sexo.
I know the only thing that doesn’t give you a hangover and momentarily relives the pain of death—and life—is sex.
She has an outlook that is both irreverent, but also longing for a closeness, whether with her mother or an old love, that does not exist. In this balancing act, Busquets creates a character who can describe how the loss permeates everything around her.
Unfortunately, Blanca decides to take a trip to the Catalan coast where her family has a house. She brings her family, and one of her exes. The journey itself is not at issue, but the seeming lack of motion. When she’s in Barcelona she’s exploring the past. On the coast she sits still and the explorations seem to stop. Instead, the banal life of the coast overtakes one and leave her in a state where she spends time with old lovers, makes new friends. None of it amounts to much in terms of action or insight. At best it is a return to the normal.
Ultimately, we come back to where I started: a mixed review. Busquets is unable to sustain Blanca’s irreverent and searching tone. Perhaps more development of the later part of the novel would help, but Busquets seems to have been unable to resolve a story that never has a true end: grief. It’s a challenge she handles well at first, but as the need for resolution comes can’t find the right touch.