uncertain Glory by joan sales

 

 

Uncertain Glory by Joan Sales

Catalan fiction

original title - Incerta glòria

Translator – Peter Bush

Source – review copy

‘The Cemetery Is Near’

(VI: From ‘Cancionero Y Romancero De Ausencias’)

 

The cemetery is near

where you and I are sleeping,

between blue prickly-pears,

blue agaves and children,

who scream excitedly

if the dead darken the road.

From here to the cemetery, all

is blue, golden, clear.

Four paces, and the dead.

Four paces, and the living.

Clear, blue and golden,

my son there grows remote.

The cemetery is near a poem by Miguel Hernandez ,which Pablo Neruda called the face of spain .Source 

Well this is the first of two book from catalan I’ll be reviewing  you in the next few weeks , this first is considered a classic in Catalan and also one of the definitive works on the Spanish civil war .Joan Sales was born in Barcelona and studied law just before the outbreak of the Civil war , he fought in the civil war and afterwards he lived in Exile .He first published the book in 1956 ,but revised it over the years until the definitive version of the book came out in 1971 , as the earlier version had been subject to Franco censorship of them .

8 july

We are still doing , nothing , just waiting for the recruits to arrive .We have already alloted officer to the future companies :I’ve got the 4th and my captain will be lieutenant gallart , the ex-waiter .

The village couldn’t be more dismal :It’s boxed in and you can’t see until you’re inside .It’s boundaries are extensive ,it’s mostly barren waste with the large olive trees that account for its name .

The arrival at the village with the woman of the Castilo de Olivo .

The book follows Lieutenant lluis Ruscalleda he is assigned to Aragonese front in 1937 he is a lawyer (in some ways you could say this is in some  part  Joan sales ), he arrives but start away doesn’t fir in his comrades seem to like a drink and he isn’t a drinker , but along the way he meets a woman the women of the Castilo de OLivo , she is an intriguing woman , that intrigues the lieutenant she became the lady of the house after she was a servant in the house  .Meanwhile Lluis is writing back to Trini his former lover that is a new woman and that is struggling with the war to bring up their son .The winter sees the brigade is sent to a quiet part of the line this brings even more problems , Lluis also writes to his brother and we also see Trini write to her old friend about her struggles with life .Add to this the war isn’t going their way and a strong streak of Catholic guilt and the church in the war , in the story we see the spanish civil war from a Catalan point of view from the losing side .A picture of the chaos that civil war is .

29 june

Dear juli , I received a letter from Lluis the day before yesterday after weeks without one .I was so pleased to hear you are both in the same brigade .I hadn’t heard from him so long ! The only news I had was the monthly postal order he dent me without fail .

Trini on the home front so to speak worries about Lluis at the front .

I have read a number of novels about the civil war those written in recent years ,by the likes of  Manual Rivas , that look back at the aftermath and Chaos of the war once the dust had settled so to speak  his book carpenters pencil looked at being a prisoner and returning after the war .I have also read a couple of books by English languages writers written that were involved with the Spanish civil war  one by Hemingway which isn’t like this book as his writing is full of bravado  .The other is  the novella by George Orwell Homage to Catalonia ,which is the nearest to this book as it follows Orwell’s time at the front .But this book adds more dimension to the fighting given its form , which is an epistolary novel what we are given is the full picture of the fighting , life on the front line not just the fighting but the sitting on the front line .We also see from Trini the life on the home front what is it like raising a kid in the war .The characters in the book , give a full picture of the world around them ,Sales brings lots of details to the story that make the war leap of the page .as we see how the war effects each character changing the relationships but also the view of the world around them .

Have you a favourite book about the spanish civil war ?

Lost Luggage by Jordi Punti

Jordi-Punti lost luggage

Lost luggage by Jordi Punti

Spanish fiction

Original title -MALETES PERDUDES

Translator – Julie Wark

Source – review copy

Jordi Punti is one of the rising voices in Catalan literature ,born in 1967 ,he moved to Barcelona to study  philology ,then went to work for a publishing house in Barcelona ,where he has worked translating writers such as Pennac ,Nothomb and Auster .He also writes poetry and in the newspapers regularly as well as novels and short stories .Lost luggage is his first book to be translated to English.

If we’re going to make progress we Christopher’s now need to return to carrer to Napols The first time we four brothers met in Barcelona , incredulous,suspicious and still dumbfounded by the revelations . Cristòfol showed us our fathers Mezzanine flat .

They start on their quest for Gabriel .

Well lost luggage as a title has a double meaning, the first comes from the main figure in the book. Gabriel a truck driver ,he was an orphan and went into trucking with his two friends he knew growing up ,after he left the orphanage .They literally on every trip the took in the truck around Europe, lost luggage  a box  Would disappear and the three friends divide them up all this was during the reign of Franco in Spain dark days indeed .The second meaning is lost luggage is what Gabriel left behind ,this is how we are introduced to him via his first son  Cristòfol the Spanish son and until this point when contact by the police that his father has gone missing ,he hadn’t seen him in 20 years ,he doesn’t know him to well has disappeared .This leads him to met three other  men called Christof, Christophe and  Christopher ,they are his half brothers his father had whilst trucking  .And are from Great Britain , France and Germany .So they meet not til this point,they were  unaware  of one another’s existence to this point  .All the more than they only have  slim facts from  their  respective mothers told them about Gabriel so the go on a quest to find him and learn about him .Along the way they become the Christopher’s like one and did his father ever got to Italy ? all this and more we find out .

Gabriel had learned to pace his relationship with his three equidistant women and three sons and ,like a good plate spinner ,he seemed to keep his cool .Of course ,the rules of the game were in his favour :he had his base camp in Barcelona ,where he lead a bachelor’s existence and ,thanks to removal work ,went to visit his famlies from time to time .

Gabriel described as plate spinner sounds right not easy what he did .

Well this book when it arrived reads like a headline from one of those women magazine” shock horror I discover my three half brothers with the same name “

the sort of thing you think oh no. I don’t want to read that .But no this is not that it is funny ,dark and at heart of this book is about how a moment of discovery can change the course of four lives for ever .We also get to the bottom of what motivate Gabriel to have these four children and why have they all got the same name ?Why did he run away from them ? Under all is the meaning of being lost whether boxes ,sons ,father ,mothers and living under Franco .Not overtly political we sense the wrongs of Franco regime .Punti as a Catalan a language that until after Franco wasn’t taught .This book is hard tom place in the cannon of Spanish fiction I ve read I think I need to read Monzo another Catalan writer to compare him too ,Like one of my favourite Spanish writers the Basque writer Bernardo Atxaga ,Punti shows how different the writing can be in Spain Catalan is language that developed separately to Spanish and one that seems to have a strong voice in its fiction if this book is anything to go out .

Stone in a landslide by Maria Barbal

This is Peirene no 2 and considered a catalan classic ,Maria Barbal is a teacher at secondary school ,she grew up in the Pallars region of spain stones in a landslide was her debut novel and the first to be translated into english by Laura McGloughlin and Paul Mitchell .She has since published numerous novel and plays,she is a member of the catalan writer association .

The book centers on the life of Conxa ,she live in the Pyrenees in a small village and  the book starts as she is on a journey from her village to another to work for an aunt .Her amazement is a the differences for her home village to this new village even thou the distance is very short .

They liked everything ; the chorizo and the black pudding ,the cuts of ham .They liked the bacon .Its much tastier than the stuff down their ,they would say .I enjoyed seeing how they kept helping themselves to more and the way they used there knives .

early on in new village .

Now Conxa live is hard and not much hope but then suddenly she has a glimmer a young Beau appears in the shape of Jaume a nice young man ,but this is the 30′s in spain and wart is looming even thou where Conxa lives it seems very distant Jaume thou decides to fight against Franco and goes to war thus changing Conxa’s life for ever .

Jaume wasn’t around much those days .He had been made a justice of the peace and said that now was the time to bring water to Sarri de Dalt .He had joined the republican left ,which was the party of the Gerneralitat Government .he had explained all this to me .

The war is looming .

The book  sums up a hard life but without ever drifting in to misery ,Conxa is a survivor and just gets on with it .The portrait of village life is great .It remind me of the stories I heard from people when I worked in a day centre in rural Northumberland ,the same tales of differences between villages ,tough living people the same as Conxa’s ,the scenery of pallers area is baron and tough working land and the village life revolves around the seasons ,the place is caught out of time from the modern world ,until the arrival of the war which at first seems very distant but in the ends has a larger impact on people’s lives .The book is a real page turn and wonderfully translated ,this is a prefect rainy afternoon book or one for those long summer train rides .

WINSTONS SCORE -

Spanish mountain goat seems to perfectly sum up Conxa hardy ,stoic , a born survivor

November 2014
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