El último libro de Sergi Pámies (Sergi Pámies’ Last Book) by Sergi Pámies – A Review

El último libro de Sergi Pámies (Sergi Pámies’ Last Book)
Version del autor
Sergi Pámies
Anagrama, 2000, pg 139

Sergi Pámies is a Catalan short story writer, novelist and journalist whose work has been widely translated in Europe but has yet to have a collection come out in English yet. He’s probably as well known in Spain and Cataluña for his essays in La Vanguardia, a Spanish language daily in Barcelona. El último libro de Sergi Pámies is the Spanish translation of L’últim llibre de Sergi Pámies, originally written in Catalan and apparently translated by the author. (Typically I don’t read translations into Spanish, but this is the only way to get access to his books, which I’ve been interested in reading every since I saw an interview with him in 2010.)

Pámies work does have some similarities to the Catalan author Quim Monzo in that there is a humor, always a little dark, and an interest in parable like stories that push the characters to desperate paradoxes. While Pámies tends towards the fantastical, the collection opens with the wrenching El precio. One breakfast a son endures his father’s assault of tired and over used sayings all of which culminates in the phrase, everyone has his price. Later when the son calls his father to check on how he is, the son hears the father talking to his wife who has died years before. The son realizes as he is surrounded by the people passing through the train station living seemingly normal lives, that his price is falling and that his next step, that of playing along with his father, diminishes his price. It is an astute story, whose brevity captures the changing roles of father and son: from the adversarial when the son was young and striking out on his own and the father his own powerful figure; to that of the caretaker relationship that requires him to become something different, something that goes against his nature and diminishes his self worth.

La máquina de hacer cosquillas also has the same touch of melancholy loss as a father returns to the same book store he has frequented with his young daughter. He hopes to get in and buy something quickly without the old clerk noticing him. He fails and she sees him. Her greeting is warm, and her gift of the sweet for the girl would normally be accepted with happily, but it only brings back the memories of a tragedy and the quick journey to the little book shop is anything but quick.

In a funnier vein is El océano Pacifico which makes up half the book. It follows “the man” who has bought a new Audi A6 and discovers that every time he plays a CD in it the musician dies shortly after. First there is Barbara, then Stephan Grapelli, and finally Sonny Bono. He flees to Paris for the Christmas break to avoid the celebrations at home, noting

Una corona de muérdago convierte la puerta en una especie de atud en posición vertical

A crown of mistletoe made the door into a kind of vertical coffin.

Paris is not a particularly festive city for him. It is a gray city of mourning and as he walks the streets and endures the rain Pámies turns Paris into one of those dark places of noir or French new wave where only isolation and darkness exist. Taking the metro he sees a street musician playing a clarinet. She is beautiful and he falls in love with her enough that he buys her CD. At his hotel he opens the case with trepidation, afraid his curse will kill her, but it’s empty. He searches through every metro station looking for her and when he finds her, they make a bargain. If she can survive 12 hours after playing her CD, he will give her 10,000 franks. She takes the offer and the man and the clarinetist play a game of waiting, she not trusting him, he limiting his desires for a woman he desperately wants but cannot have and is afraid he will kill. Ultimately, when he is returning home he takes pride in his ability to fall out of love. It was something, like Paris, that was a passing infatuation. What does it say though, that everything he loves dies (although the fate of the clarinetist is left open). Instead we are left with the death of Carl Perkins. It is a strange tale whose insights about Paris are colored with a loneliness and quiet desperation that is chilling and comedic.

Perhaps in his most fantastical and paradoxical, a man who can see into the near future sees himself in a hospital and has no idea how sick he is or what will happen. Even though he has the power to see into the future, he is powerless to see beyond the room. What he finds himself wanting to know is what will he know when he is actually in that moment in the hospital. Even for those with the power to see the future, the future is not enough. He needs to be in the future to see the future. It is his most Borgesian story whose brief pages belie a paradox.

Sergi Pámies’ work is an excellent mix of the satirical, fantastical, and humorous, bridging social satire, to political cometary, to family stories of loss. An astute observer, especially in his descriptions of Paris, his stories are filled with observations on modern life. For those interested in Catalan literature, perhaps one day he will be translated.

A Thousand Morons by Quim Monzó – A Review

Thousand_Morons-frontA Thousand Morons
Quim Monzó
Open Letter, 2012,pg 111

Reading Quim Monzó’s short stories is always refreshing experience, a kind of cleansing of the palate after imbibing too many stories in the American vein. In Monzó there is little interest in the well written story and its obligatory finish with an apropos epiphany. His characters are seldom explored in strong emotional terms, instead they exist within the irrepressible march of time. In other words, events happen, characters perform their roles, but there is no reason why, it just is. The lack of explanation comes because Monzó and his narrators are always distant, keeping what is before them at arms length. It can feel cold, uncaring, but at his best it makes for a literature of perceptive descriptions and, surprisingly, empathetic stories that never loose his sense of humor, akin to that of Thomas Bernhard’s in the Voice Imitator.

While A Thousand Morons still has the touches of the comedic and the satiric, there is something more personal, too. In the first of the two sections, the stories are more personal, less distant from every day experience. There is still humor, but it is a humor that comes from contrasting a typically emotive subject against the absurdities of his telling. It isn’t that the injection of accessible experiences have weekend his work, it has allowed him to contrast play with the genre and retarget his humor at something new.

In the first story, Mr. Beneset, a son visits his father in a nursing home. The description is given in a dead pan third person that after the first paragraph which gives just the most minimal back story, becomes almost a dialog with stage direction. The father is a talker and performs a kind of elderly stream of consciousness, bouncing from one topic to another: the beauty of the Cuban aide, the thought of death, the deaths of his neighbors. These are not new ideas for a story. Monzó turns things around, though, because all the time they are talking the man’s father is dressing as a woman. It is mater of fact, as all things are in his stories. It doesn’t mater why he is doing it to the characters. They already know why. It puts the locus of exploration on the reader and opens up the story, moving it past the visit, to an alternate vision. The humor, which is surprising for Monzó, is moderated, and he uses the contrast of the father’s clothing to reenliven the dilemmas of old age and family.

The Coming of Spring mines similar territory, describing a man–there is no name–as he visits his parents in an old age home. It is a story of repetition: his visits; their problems; and the surprising ability of an old couple to survive so long. They survive as much by habit as by will and, the Monzós repetitive text underscores that. Many of the paragraphs that open the little sections all start with the phrase, A man… The habit of the elderly couple, is mirrored in the prose. The repetition lends a sense of melancholy as the man walks through the old apartment where the couple once lived and now stands vacant. A physical memory that has been left to deteriorate like the couple in the home. And like the couple it also continues on as if by habit. What makes the story so strong is the distance the reader feels between the characters. There is no comforting resolution here and it is in that distance, the separation of the son from the reader that the real emotional power resides.

While those two stories overpower the rest of the collection and give Monzó’s work, for the first time, a heavier, less comedic weight, the humor from his other works is evident throughout the collection. In Saturday, echoing Carver, a woman tries to erase her ex from her life. First its the photos. Next the furniture, until she attempts to destroy everything he has ever touched which is either impossible, or self destructive depending on how far one wants to take it. Of course the story is purely physical. There are no insights, just the illogical end of removing all physical memories of a lover. It is an unsettling idea.

For fans of Monzós more flippant and philosophical sides, there are still plenty of stories where the absurdity of an experience becomes an maddening experience. These are the typical Monzó story where the completely absurd, although often common place occurrence,  becomes an overwhelming experience. In Praise, an author makes a passing comment that he enjoyed an up an coming author’s book. Soon the the young author begins to hound the established author until the tables turn and the nice, off handed comment the established author gave, becomes his down fall. It is a typically Monzonian story in that something small can bring so many problems. It is the kind of story he excels at. It also underlies a kind of cynicism that pervades his work, as if what ever one does you will fail in some way. It is an idea I rarely see in American fiction, but in continental fiction it seems to show up quite often. On one hand, you have American optimism always finding a better tomorrow, even when everything is going to hell. And contrasting is a realism that seems cynical, but is really an outlook guided by precedent that knows how easy it is for the simple to turn into complete horror. Monzó is full of that idea, which is why this collection with its turn towards the personal seemed more startling.

Monzós stories deserve to be better known. His humor, cynicism and insight are a great antidote to short stories that can seem tiresome in their perfected resolution. With this collection, Monzó has show that the distant and skeptical stance can even be used in more personal settings.

You can read the story of A Cut (pdf) form Open Letter

Quim Monzó Story at Guernica

Guernica magazine has short story form Quim Monzó called One Night. It is a racy take on Snow White.

Plum in the center of the room, the prince can see the body of the girl, who is sleeping on a litter of oak branches and wrapped round in flowers of every color. He quickly dismounts and kneels by her side. He takes her hand. It is cold. And her white face, too, like a dead girl’s. Not to mention her thin, purple lips. Conscious of his role in the story, the prince kisses her lovingly. He knows this is the kiss that must bring her back to life, the kiss the princess has been waiting for forever, since the witch’s curse put her to sleep. The prince leans his head backwards so he can gaze at her when she lifts her eyelids and opens those large, almond eyes.

English Interviews with Najat El Hachmi and Teresa Solana

Note: apparently I thought I posted this sometime ago, so it may seem a little old news.

The CBC’s Writers and Company is running an excellent series on Spanish writers. Eleanor Wachtel interviews two Catalan writers, Najat El Hachmi and Teresa Solana. I  don’t know Teresa Solana’s works, but I once saw Najat El Hachmi on El Publico Lee (it was the first episode I ever watched) and thought her book was interesting, as was her story. The interview of both of them lasts an hour and talks about what it means to be Catalan and a writer from a language with around 7 million speakers. Najat El Hachmi mentioned, too, like immigrants to the English language, her writing often takes Catalan in directions that native speakers might not go. Of course, in translation we’ll never see that. Each of them have works translated in English, so if you like what you hear you can read their books.

A Review of Catalan Short Story Writer Sergi Pàmies’s La bicicleta estática

Letras Libres has a favorable review of Catalan short story writer Sergi Pàmies’s new book La bicicleta estática (the Static Bicycle). Although they compare his style to Carver, Moore, and Wolf, something in my book isn’t such a good thing, the stories themselves sound a more interesting. Nothing of his is in English and I didn’t find out about him until I caught an episode of Nostromo recently and was intrigued. The stories have some fantastical elements, although quite a few sound more straight forward. He plays with the autobiographical, having characters that resemble the author, even if the story is not  autobiographical.

Los cuentos de La bicicleta estática funcionan como variaciones de un número reducido de temas entre los que, como puede verse, destacan las relaciones disfuncionales, los fracasos amorosos y la muerte de quienes amamos, temas que los editores de Pàmies han llamado en la contraportada del libro “los naufragios y desconciertos de la madurez”, en una atribución ratificada por el propio autor al sostener en una entrevista reciente que son los temas más recurrentes en ese período de la vida que tiene lugar “una vez que has comprobado que la felicidad es efímera y, en general, muy poco fiable”. En esa misma entrevista, Pàmies hacía explícito el carácter autobiográfico de algunos de sus relatos, que aparece ratificado por la elección en la mayor parte de ellos de lo que vulgarmente denominamos la “primera persona”, y lo vinculaba a la llegada de la madurez.
A este solipsismo vinculado con la creación de personajes que (sin la pretensión de esclarecer cuánto hay de autobiográfico en sus peripecias) tienen la misma edad, una profesión similar e incluso la misma apariencia física que su autor, Pàmies le suma dos relatos fantásticos que abundan explícita y cómicamente en la necesidad de profundizar en el conocimiento de uno mismo: en el primero de ellos, “Benzodiazepina”, un hombre decide encontrarse consigo mismo tras haber estado chateando con él durante varias semanas; el encuentro acaba con los dos personajes (que son él mismo) prometiéndose un encuentro que harán todo lo posible por evitar. En “Supervivencia”, un hombre inicia una expedición en busca de las respuestas que supuestamente se encontrarían en su interior, pero descubre que este es un armario vacío y agobiante y huye de sí mismo por un agujero. Ambos relatos ofrecen una imagen devastadora de los abismos de la personalidad, pero La bicicleta estática no es un libro oscuro. Pàmies es honesto y profundo, pero nunca abandona la ligereza y la ironía, a las que suma una gran capacidad de observación y un talento particular para la ternura. La austeridad formal de sus relatos parece aquí puesta al servicio de la exuberancia imaginativa y vincula los relatos del autor catalán con los de Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff y Lorrie Moore, por mencionar solo tres ejemplos. Al igual que los personajes de estos tres autores, los de Pàmies se aferran a unas certezas de las que en realidad desconfían pero que retienen por ser las únicas que poseen realmente; en ese sentido, tal vez el único personaje feliz del libro sea aquel al que “como le han extirpado la nostalgia, no le pesa la inercia hacia unos recuerdos alterados por el poder transformador de la memoria. Como no tiene esperanza, no invierte ninguna energía en proyectarse hacia un futuro improbable. Liberado de la dulzura física y anímica que tanto le torturaba […], saborea su saliva, felizmente insípida” (77). No hay ninguna heroicidad en ello, pero tal vez sí la haya en la forma en que Pàmies practica en este y en otros relatos excepcionales proezas narrativas; es lo que sucede en “Un año de perro equivale a siete años de persona”, en el que un perro y un cerdo destruyen involuntariamente sus relaciones de pareja por consolarse mutuamente y de forma alternativa, y en “Tres maneras de no decir te quiero”, que narra la supuesta incapacidad de un autor para escribir una historia de amor entre el amor correspondido y el amor no correspondido e incluye dos textos que prueban que la supuesta incapacidad no lo era realmente.

Gasoline by Quim Monzo – A Review

” target=”_blank”>Gasoline
Quim Monzon
Open Letter Press, 2010, 141 pg

I’m not sure if Gasoline is a funny book or an annoying one. Knowing that Quim Monzo is a bit of a joker (reading one of his weekly columns in La Vnguradia made that obvious), should help me conclude the former. But that is outside of the book and doesn’t really make me desire to conclude the later. Gasoline is a relatively brief read, both in pages and complexity, and the actual experience of reading it was not unpleasurable, but for much of the meandering obsessions and love affairs that fill the book I had one thought: who cares. Perhaps if I was a painter I would have enjoyed it, found a way to relate to the characters, that popular, though limiting, mechanism of evaluation. Yet after each episode where one or the other of the Catalan doppelgangers stalks someone, or drinks too much, or has an affair with someone, all the while the art world sings his praises, all I can think is, yes, artists can live messed up lives; point taken. If Monzo wanted to take down modern art he would have done better to follow Michel Houellebecq’s bit from Platform.

So what about the book? What was it that caused me such consternation? The story follows Heribert Julia as he tries to paint new paintings for an upcoming a new exhibition.  Caught in some sort of painter’s block he spends his time sleeping, drinking, and finding obsessions. He does everything except paint. For a while he stalks his wife, convinced she is having an affair. In perhaps the funnest part of the book he creates a disguise one store at a time as he follows her, eventually dressing as some sort of strange clown that makes him completely recognizable as he passes her. In one brief section he decides to buy collectible stamps, spending thousands on them. Then pages latter he changes to rare coins, spending even more, and then as he did with the stamps, he places them in the closet. Between the drinking and shopping he plots his next sexual conquest. His marriage is a disaster and it never seems like they are interested in being together or even care if one has disappeared for a few days, as if their lives have taken divergent paths and they live together out of habit. His undoing, though, is when he starts a new affair and in a moment of passion in a museum he knocks a bronze statue on his himself and ends up in the hospital days latter. He certainly will not be finishing the paintings for the shows, and one can only assume his role as the most important Catalan painter in New York is over.

The second part of the book follows Humbert (most of the characters have first names that start with H), a younger Catalan painter who has taken the New York art world by storm. Humbert is also married to Heribert’s wife. Obviously, the two painters are meant to be opposites and reflect different creative processes. Humbert keeps  six or seven note books with different ideas and is constantly writing them down. Often they can be pretty pedantic: “Still life of different types of glasses and mugs;”or “The city, by night, as seen from the air: millions of tiny white, blue, and yellow dots.” Humbert is always working or going to the gym. He is obsessed with movement and avoiding the traps of Heribert. Eventually, though, he begins to have an affair with his wife’s friend’s daughter. They travel around, staying in hotels, drinking, all the while Humbert worries that he isn’t going to keep up the pace of work. The book ends with Humbert getting into bed with his lover on New Years Eve.

The book feels unfinished, a collection of incidents put together, but without any good reason for writing them. Sure the art world can be messy, but the book doesn’t really help me understand that. At the same time Monzo eschews psychological insights, which is fine, watching a collection of actions is not a bad approach and too much pschologizing can get tedious. But the insights the book itself leaves you with are just as flat as the character’s lives: I do this, then I do that, and then I might get obsessed about this; who knows, life is just one long collection of unconnected events. Unfortunately, it is not so much a tedious assemblage, for some how the book wasn’t painful to read, but it seems to want to dispense with something that isn’t that important to begin with, the art world. And Monzo is dispensing, too, with the idea of psychological insight, but his replacement, a light, episodic comedy falls flat. Monzo makes me long for Bernhard, where nothing really happens, but at least you know there is something behind it all. In Gasoline Monzo is just the class clown who has to be funny by compulsion, not because he has something fascinating to say.

If someone can point me to another work of his to convince me otherwise I will give him another try, but for now Quim Monzo’s Gasoline is the end of the line.

Gasoline
Quim Monzon
Open Letter Press, 2010, 141 pg

I’m not sure if Gasoline is a funny book or an annoying one. Knowing that Quim Monzo is a bit of a joker (reading one of his weekly columns in La Vnguradia made that obvious), should help me conclude the former. But that is outside of the book and doesn’t really make desire to conclude the later. Gasoline is a relatively brief read, both in pages and complexity, and the actual experience of reading it was not unpleasurable, but for much of the meandering obsessions and love affairs that fill the book I had one thought: who cares. Perhaps if I was an a painter I would have enjoyed it, found a way to relate to the characters, that popular, though limiting, mechanism of evaluation. Yet after each episode where one or the other of the Catalan doppelgangers stalks someone, or drinks too much, or has an affair with someone, all the while the art world sings his praises, all I can think is, yes, artists can live messed up lives; point taken. If Monzo wanted to take down modern art he would have done better to follow Michel Houellebecq’s bit from Platform.

So what about the book? What was it that caused me such consternation? The story follows Heribert Julia as he tries to paint new paintings for an upcoming a new exhibition.  Caught in some sort of painter’s block he spends his time sleeping, drinking, and finding obsessions. He does everything except paint. For a while he stalks his wife, convinced she is having an affair. In perhaps the funnest part of the book he creates a disguise one store at a time as he follows her, eventually dressing as some sort of strange clown that makes him completely recognizable as he passes her. In one brief section he decides to buy collectible stamps, spending thousands on them. Then pages latter he changes to rare coins, spending even more and then as he did with the stamps, he places them in the closet. Between the drinking and shopping he plots the next affair he can have. His marriage is a disaster and it never seems like they are interested in being together or even care if one has disappeared for a few days, as if their lives have take divergent paths and they live together out of habit. His undoing, though, is when he starts a new affair and in a moment of passion in a museum he knocks a bronze statue on his himself and ends up in the hospital days latter. He certainly will not be finishing the paintings for the shows and one can only assume his role as the most important Catalan painter in New York is over.

Juan Jose Saer, Mercè Rodored, Mathias Enard’s Zone Winter 2010 from Open Letter

Open Letter Press has released its fall catalog and it has some pretty exciting items in it. Of particular interest to me are Mercè Rodored’s short stories. I read her Death in Spring last summer and thought it was great. I don’t know much about Juan Jose Saer, but the description sounds interesting. And Mathias Enard’s Zone is one of those stylistic works that is too tempting not to read.You can down load the catalog which contains samples and bios from Open Letter.

The Selected Stories of Merce Rodoreda. Translated from the Catalan by Martha Tennent. (Catalonia) Collected here are thirty-one of Mercè Rodoreda’s most moving and challenging stories, presented in chronological order of their publication from three of Rodoreda’s most beloved short story collections: Twenty-Two Stories, It Seemed Like Silk and Other Stories, and My Christina and Other Stories. These stories capture Rodoreda’s full range of expression, from quiet literary realism to fragmentary impressionism to dark symbolism. Few writers have captured so clearly, or explored so deeply, the lives of women who are stuck somewhere between senseless modernity and suffocating tradition—Rodoreda’s “women are notable for their almost pathological lack of volition, but also for their acute sensitivity, a nearly painful awareness of beauty” (Natasha Wimmer).

The Sixty-Five Years of Washington by Juan Jose Saer. Translated from the Spanish by Steve Dolph (Argentina)

It’s October 1960, say, or 1961, in a seaside Argentinian city named Santa Fe, and The Mathematician—wealthy, elegant, educated, dressed from head to toe in white—is just back from a grand tour of Europe. He’s on his way to drop off a press release about the trip to the papers when he runs into Ángel Leto, a relative newcomer to Rosario who does some accounting, but who this morning has decided to wander the town rather than go to work.

One day soon, The Mathematician will disappear into exile after his wife’s assassination, and Leto will vanish into the guerrilla underground, clutching his suicide pill like a talisman. But for now, they settle into a long conversation about the events of Washington Noriega’s sixty-fifth birthday—a party neither of them attended.

Saer’s The Sixty-Five Years of Washington is simultaneously a brilliant comedy about memory, narrative, time, and death and a moving narrative about the lost generations of an Argentina that was perpetually on the verge of collapse.

Zone by Mathias Enard. Translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell. (France)

Francis Servain Mirkovic, a French-born Croat who has been working for the French Intelligence Services for fifteen years, is traveling by train from Milan to Rome. He’s carrying a briefcase whose contents he’s selling to a representative from the Vatican; the briefcase contains a wealth of information about the violent history of the Zone—the lands of the Mediterranean basin, Spain, Algeria, Lebanon, Italy, that have become Mirkovic’s specialty.

Over the course of a single night, Mirkovic visits the sites of these tragedies in his memory and recalls the damage that his own participation in that violence—as a soldier fighting for Croatia during the Balkan Wars—has wreaked in his own life. Mirkovic hopes that this night will be his last in the Zone, that this journey will expiate his sins, and that he can disappear with Sashka, the only woman he hasn’t abandoned, forever . . .

One of the truly original books of the decade—and written as a single, hypnotic, propulsive, physically irresistible sentence—Mathias Énard’s Zone provides an extraordinary and panoramic view of the turmoil that has long deviled the shores of the Mediterranean.

Death in Spring – A Review

—Men who are eager to kill are already dead. (pg. 99)

To distill Mercé Rodoreda’s Death in Spring into an essay is not so much difficult, but it quickly takes the magic from this brief yet symbolically complex novel. Set in a mythical village where the laws of nature mostly work as expected and the inhabitants live in a partly Christian, partly fascistic world, Death in Spring is part allegory, part fantasy, a novel whose preoccupations (as the title suggest) are death, but which take place amongst the rich imagery of the living world. It is as if she trying to create an escape from what is to come in the village, with the inhabitants. This is not a novel that sees “Nature, Bloody in Tooth and Claw,” but a flight to its refuge, because the alternative is so disturbing.

Composed of a series of short, enigmatic chapters narrated by a villager, the novel follows the course of the narrator’s life in the village from youth to death. The events he narrates are not singular, but repetitive, ritualistic, and without beginning and end. This is not a novel of they did, the singular, but they would do, the repetitive. The sense of the repetitive is what makes the novel haunting, because there is no leaving the village. And the narrator wants to leave, not because of one threat in particular but the constant sense of threat.

To understand what makes the village different, all one has to know is how they bury the dead. Instead of burial or cremation, a tree is cut open in the shape of a cross and the bark is pulled away. The dead (or nearly dead) person is placed in the tree and is covered over with the bark again. Later, when the person has spent some time there they put cement down the mouth to keep the soul in. The burials are not necessarily by choice, either. Instead, the function as one of many violent rituals that keeps the village eating itself with violence.

In the village, too, is a prisoner. Why there is a prisoner isn’t explained, but he is an object of ridicule and curiosity and when finally released he is unwilling to move from where his cage once was. Its as if the cycle of violence and control becomes so natural that even a prisoner who might want to be free, is uninterested in freedom.

Amongst the culture of communal control, Rodoreda creates a mythology from the natural world: bees that are at once free, yet are scavengers too; a river that runs under the village, not only giving life to the village but also giving it another means to violence. All of these images create a sense of an Eden that is not quite Eden. It is that sense of beauty just out of reach that makes the novel so arresting. One particularly gruesome practice will illustrate how the book mixes all these elements together.

I wanted to see the Festa, so I went. The villagers had gathered near the river, on the esplanade by the canes that whistled because it was windy. Tables and benches had been built from tree trunks. The horse hoof soup was already boiling in large cauldrons, and standing beside each pot was a woman who was removing scum with a ladle and throwing fat and lumps of cooled blood on the ground. For a funeral Festa, they killed horses and pregnant mares. First, they ate the soup, then the horse or mare, and then a morsel-but only a small piece because there wasn’t much to go around-of the little ones the mares were carrying inside them. They made a paste with the brains; it helped digestion. They peeled them, boiled them in a pot used only for brains, cleaned them, and then chopped them to bits.

The novel could easily seen as an allegory of post civil war Spain. Between the mix of conformity and quasi-religious practices that celebrate violence all marks of Franco’s Spain. The novel, too, can be a more generalized allegory of violence and conformity. With either read, the novel with its clear images, sparse narration, and fantastical landscapes is clearly a brilliant novel of a great story teller.