Rafael Chirbes: En la orilla [On the Shore]


The latest addition to my website is Rafael ChirbesEn la orilla [On the Shore]. This book was generally agreed by Spanish critics to be the best Spanish novel of 2013 and also the best novel on the Spanish economic crisis. As is usual with Chirbes, plot is not key to this book; indeed, there is very little plot. It mainly consists of Esteban, a seventy year old Spaniard, who lives in Olba, a small town he has barely left in his life, who has recently had to close down his carpentry business for financial reasons, a business founded by his grandfather and which he inherited from his father, ruminating on his life and the sad state of affairs in Olba, Spain and the world. The shoreland of the title is used as a dumping ground for all types of waste, including chemical waste and dead bodies, both animal and human and is clearly a symbol for the state of affairs in Spain. Esteban covers all the usual topics – globalisation, immigration, corruption, Internet porn and so on – both in his ruminations and in his barroom chats with his friends. His father, who had fought in the Civil War and been imprisoned, is now over ninety and Esteban keeps him in his house, stuck in front of the television watching westerns and films about terrorism, cared for by Liliana, a Colombian immigrant. Esteban had never been married but has two brothers and a sister with whom he has little contact and for whom he has little respect. It is a very grim picture of contemporary Spain and clearly resonated with the Spanish reading public. It has not been translated into English (though has been translated into German) and I am not sure how well it will go down in the English-speaking world.

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