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Showing posts from August, 2017

Gasoline

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The back cover of the Open Letter Books edition of Gasoline (Benzina is the original Catalan title) includes a quotation from the New York Times: ‘a gifted writer, he draws well on the rich tradition of Spanish surrealism’. Since the book concerns an artist (or rather, two artists) then if Spanish Surrealism refers to Miró, Dali, Massanet etc. then I can see what the reviewer may have meant. I have not read very much Catalan literature, however, and therefore cannot comment on whether the Surrealism referred to goes in that direction too. For me, the literary similarities are perhaps to certain French surrealists (such as Boris Vian’s Froth on the Daydream, 1947); or perhaps postmodern American fiction writers (such as Thomas Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49). In making these potentially misleading comparisons (my memory of Vian is ancient; Pynchon is much more challenging to read …) I should also say that Gasoline is a very original novel, and I can understand how it might have achieved a …

The Time of the Doves

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According to the introduction (Graywolf Press edition, 1986) Mercé Rodoreda started her career as a prolific writer with five novels by the age of about 28; by 1939 things changed dramatically. No only were Catalan books burned and Catalan newspapers suppressed, but the author herself went into exile and felt disconnected from her language and culture. In 1960, Rodereda returned to the novel form and penned this stream of consciousness novel, in the voice of the long-suffering Natalia from Barcelona. This is a life story which begins and ends with courtship; of Natalia and Quimet, and much later with Natalia’s daughter Rita and her love, Vincenḉ. This life cycle is interesting enough – on the basis of the close observations of domestic life and the relationship between the married couple (with Quimet the domineering, passionate kind – though not without interest in others). What makes it more captivating is the way that the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath enters the lives of the c…