Death in Spring by Mercè Rodoreda

Death in Spring by  Mercè Rodoreda

Spanish Catalan fiction

Original title –  La mort i la primavera

Translator – Martha Tennet

Source – personnel copy

Well, I read the first of my post-holiday reads in a day. This book came out a few years ago in the US and earlier this year here as part of a new penguin series into European voices. Merce Rodoreda was considered one of the leading novelist of her time. her novel The time of the doves has been considered the greatest Catalan novel. She lived most of her life in Exile in France and Switzerland away from the Franco regime only returning later on in her life to Spain towards the end of the Franco years.

I craned my head out of the water. The light was stronger now, and I swam slowly, wanting to take my time before leaving the river. The water embraced me. It would have seized ,e if I had let it , and – pushed forward and sucked under- I would have ended up in the place where nothing is comprehended.Reeds grew in the river; the current bent them, and they let themselves be rocked by the water that was carrying the force of the sky, earth and smow.

The opening lines have that feel of nature cling to the people of the village .

Now I said this was a novella I wanted to read as I saw it as a male version of the book Stones in a landslide.Which was one of my favourite novels of all time. But this is a very different coming of age novel. This is a visceral novel of a boy becoming a man in a remote village that still clings to the past. There is like the scenery around the book vines and forest of death as it is called there is a sense of a world. Being caught out of time and maybe for our narrator, there is no way out of it. Nature captures people, like the dead body in the river. returned to the river.The bridges that never seem to be used a dense forest give the Narrators world a closed in feel. The other characters his father dying, his stepmother the Blacksmith and his odd son all give this a sense of the beauty and horror of nature. A boy becomes a man in a strange world a wonderful narrated world of mountain villages.

When they pulled the boy from the river, he was dead, the returned him to the river. Those who died in the water were returned to the water. The river carried them away and nothing was ever known of them again.But at night, at the spot where the bodies were thrown into the water, a shadow could be seen.Not every night. Not today or tomorrow, but on certain nights a shadow trembled,They said the shadow of the dead returned to the place where the man was born.They said that to die was to merge with the shadow.

I was so remind of Marquez with this lines and the river which in his books is a powerful prescense as well.

This is a novella that like many great shorter books seems much more than its parts. It is full of descriptions of the world around them at times this is maybe a metaphor for how Franco strangled the country. There is also for me an echo of the works of Marquez the village her is a Spanish cousin of Marquez’s Macondo village. The same sense of a place cling to its customs and superstitions of the outside world this is a world the character is trapped in like those vines and even if he escapes there is moss to slip on, bridges to cross and rivers to survive. Hope is always there but like a dim light in the valley below the village.

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jonathan
    Apr 15, 2018 @ 23:31:49

    It sounds really good, Stu. I’m not sure of the cover design of these books, I mean they’re striking if a little garish. I notice that Pavese’s ‘The Beautiful Summer’ is due out in June in this imprint.


  2. Lisa Hill
    Apr 16, 2018 @ 04:51:43

    I agree with Jonathan, that’s a horrible cover. Mine is the Open Letter edition and it has a superb design by Milan Bozac, see it at Goodreads


  3. kimbofo
    Apr 16, 2018 @ 06:23:20

    This is the May choice for our book group. I’ve only skimmed your review and will come back to it once I’ve read the book.


  4. Literary Truce
    Apr 18, 2018 @ 15:39:32

    This is an unfinished novel, although it was published when Rodoreda died. Death in Spring was one of her most tragic novels, and in my opinion, it has such a dramatic background that lets glimpse the circumstances that had to suffer when she was young.

    Share it!


  5. Desiree B. Silvage
    Apr 18, 2018 @ 15:45:00

    Reblogged this on LITERARY TRUCE and commented:
    They want you to be afraid. They want to believe, and they want to suffer, suffer, only suffer, and they choke the dying man to make them suffer even more, so they’ll suffer till their last breath, so that no good moment can ever exist. If the rocks and water rip away your face, it’s for the sake of everyone…


  6. Trackback: That was the month that was April 2018 | Winstonsdad's Blog
  7. Lisa Hill
    Jul 28, 2022 @ 03:00:19

    I’ve read this myself now, Stu: here’s my review for Spanish Lit Month:


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April 2018


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