The Potato eaters by Manuel Rivas

THE POTATO EATERS

The potato eaters by Manuel Rivas

Spanish Galician fiction

Original title – Os comedores de patacas

Translator – Jonathan Dunne

Source – review copy

I always wonder when we get a writer that has been translator but has not had earlier books or the debut novel translated. I wonder what these books are like in many case we never find out but sometimes we have to look to small press like Small station , who I have reviewed a few times before and this is a debit novel from one of my favourite Spanish writers Manuel Rivas , I have reviewed three times before . Manuel Rivas won the Spanish national prize for fiction in 1996 .for his book people of the night . this was his first adult novel from 1991.

Luou never receives visitors. He must feel pretty happy. Lying there, in his spacesuit, without having to talk or eat or anything like that. I watch the saline solution going down and imagine nothing sliding down the course of his blood and breaking up into tiny, invisible droplets that settle at the end of this toes. The bastard, perhaps in a couple of days he’ll be lucky enough to have Miss Cowbutt spoonfed him his soup

Luou had a tip to toe plaster on after the accident Sam view is odd but beleivable even down to the last line of this quote.

The book follows Sam a young man with a bad drug habit. He had a bad crash and end up in hospital after one particular episode but at least he isn’t as bad off as his friend who end up injured tip to toe . In hospital he has people pressing him for money as he is trying to stay off drugs he meets an old man who world view intrigues him. There is also a nurse he likes isn’t there always lol . His family decides to take him home to  the quirky village he grew up knowing as he grandmother lived there. single mother a man who collects everything a mysterious man in the attic as Sam tries to kick his habit  Aita at his grandmother with his mother his world is controlled and they hoped the mountain air would help him.

The mirror

The dampness has entered the mirror as well and unfurled black ivy along its edge, where the spider has woven its web. I am caught. everything passes slowly before my eyes, bringing dry leaves that land on me sleepily and carry words and memories of others.This is Aita a goddamn cobweb I look at myself in the mirror and pretend to be a monster

This shows Riva’s poetic side in this short vignette aout a mirror and Sam trying to be monster in it

 

This is a story of growing up Sam is just on the cusp of adulthood a boy becoming a man and also he has his cross to bear which is his drug habit . the book is taught in schools in the Galician region it seems , although it has been question as a little to earthy in its language , but I am some one that knows kids say certain words and know what certain words mean.  I can see why it is a tale of what drugs can do and that is ruin your life as we see in the knock on effect with Sam friend Luou who ends up in a really bad way after the accident. Rivas style here is to use short vignettes as the course of the novel each chapter is a snippet of Sam’s life with title like Miss cowbutt the nurse that captures his eye whilst in the hospital. The title is also a the title of Van Goch painting of ugly rural peasants eating potatos , this is maybe a way of showing the ugliness of drugs on people but also the people of Aita could have walked of a van Goch painter the richness in the quirky village folk .It is also full of poetic pieces from Rivas worth discovering as a piece of early fiction from a great voice of Galicians fiction but also a poet as well.

 

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One million cows by Manuel Rivas

ONE MILLION COWS

One million cows by Manuel Rivas

Spanish Galican fiction

Original title -un millon de vacas

Translator – Jonathan Dunne

Source – review copy

I received the first for books from a small publisher Small station press , the press was set up by the translator of this book. There aim was to bring the best of Galican fiction to English for the first time . I reviewed Polaroid by the same press as well last year. I saved this for this spanish lit month as it is by one of my all time favourite Spanish writers |Manuel Rivas I have reviewed two of his novels all is silence and the carpenters pencil both of which were translator by Jonathan. This is a collection of short stories from early in the career of this writer.

“Did you see that guy ?” asked Rita. “He smells bad.”.In this day and age , still wearing a corduroy jacket,” remarked pachi. “He’s covered in dandruff,” observed Virxinia. Raul had a doubt “Does he not talk, or is he dumb?””That Girl complained Marije , no longer knows what to do to surprise us. First , she hooks up with an Arab and now she brings along a country bumpkin. Do you think she’s taken him to bed yet ?

A stranger appears with dandruff on his jacket or is it fish scales ?

One million cows is a selection of 18 stories with setting in modern-day Galica in the 1980’s . A time when spain had just shaken of the shackles of the Franco years. The stories range from a schoolgirl recounting her last day at school her favourite art teacher. A man returns from England in another. Then there is how we get the title when it is reported on a news piece that there is a million cows living in farms in Galicia. My favourite piece was a comic story of a man given the job of answering the phones at an army base , when he receives a call  from a woman asking for Jose to be let off on leave to come and sort out the cotton fields, but she won’t say which Jose and there is a lot of them do we ever find out which Jose she wants ? Elsewhere a stranger appears in a town covered in fishscales.

Having been assigned to the telephone exchange , i was one of the others, needless to say on that filthy afternoon, from behind the window of the exchange I thanked my lucky stars that I was only half a man . Until a bell rang , a noisy buzzer that warned of an incoming call.

“INfantry barracks, how can I help you ?”

Is Jose There ?”, asked the distant voice of a woman .

“Jose , what Jose ?”

“Jose is that you ? Can you put Jose on the line ?”

“What Jose , madam ? there are lots of Joses here ”

“I wanted Jose to be given leave, it’s for the cotton, you know. For harvesting the cotton

I like this short tale of a call to an Army Barracks .

I always wonder what the less known works of writers are, you often look at a writers Wiki page or interviews with them translated and see books or as in this case short stories that haven’t been translated this is where the small press come in and the ability to fill in the gaps in the cannon of great writers. I am a fan of Rivas he has a real eye of detail in his writing and that is shown here but also i liked the fact he had humour in a few of the stories which is something I discovered about his writing. I also like that fact in this collection of post Franco tales there was no mention of the fact it was post Franco era.

Do you like to reader lesser known works of writers in translation ?

July 2019
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