Category: Catalonia Page 1 of 4

Montserrat Roig: Ramona, adéu! (Goodbye, Ramona)

The latest addition to my website is Montserrat Roig‘s Ramona, adéu! (Goodbye, Ramona). The novel tells the story of three women, all called Ramona, from three successive generations. Ramona 1 lives in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century and feels her life as a wife and mother is boring. She almost has an affair to liven things up. Ramona 2 had an affair before marriage but it did not work out and now she is married to Francisco. She is very concerned when she thinks he might have been killed in a terrorist attack in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War but, later, she is not happy in her marriage. Ramona 3, living in the 60s, is more liberated but she has man trouble with her boyfriend Jordi and, like her forebears, feels patronised and unhappy with her family, with Barcelona and with her life. Roig makes her point clearly, that women in Catalonia (and obviously elsewhere) were expected to follow the marriage-motherhood path and do little else, even though they would have liked to have a more fulfilling life.

Joaquim Ruyra: Jacobé & Fineta

The latest addition to my website is Joaquim Ruyra‘s Jacobé & Fineta This collection consists of two short stories but very well worth reading . Jacobé tells of a girl who looks after a young boy, Minguet when young but he notices that as she gets older she seems to be deteriorating and even going insane. the local doctor puts it down to the fact that her father and grandfather died of alcoholism and the disease has passed to her even though she is not an alcoholic. The denouement, as the two again meet, takes place on a stormy cliff. Fineta is shorter and tells of a young woman waiting for her brother and father to return from sardine fishing but who is assaulted by a mysterious character while waiting. Both are excellent stories.

Rosa Maria Arquimbau: Quaranta anys perduts (Forty Lost Years)

The latest addition to my website is Rosa Maria Arquimbau‘s Quaranta anys perduts (Forty Lost Years). The novel tells the story of Laura Vidal, a Barcelona woman, from Francesc Macià declaring Catalan independence (14 April 1931) to 1971. She becomes a dressmaker and does reasonably well. However, the vicissitudes of life in Catalonia affect her, particularly the Spanish Civil War, when she flees the country for France, returning later. Above all, Laura is a feminist and independent woman and is not going to be told what to do, either by her family or men in general and steers her own path through the forty lost years. Arquimbau tells her tale well – Laura is clearly, at least to some degree, based on Arquimbau herself – even if she decides she has lost forty years.

Llorenç Villalonga: Mort de dama [Death of a Lady]

The latest addition to my website is Llorenç Villalonga‘s Mort de dama [Death of a Lady]. This was Villalonga’s first book and was a wicked satire on the Mallorcan upper class of the day. The eponymous lady is Obdulia de Monteada and, as the title and the beginning of the book tell us, she is dying and will die by the end of the book, though she takes her time doing so. She is eighty-four, realises that she is going to die and takes to her bed. We follow her scathing criticism of various people – her relatives, other Mallorcan aristocrats, foreigners and modern women. We see those who expect to inherit at least something – all will be disappointed. For the Mallorcan aristocrat of the day -and that very much included Obdulia – dying and funerals were the highlight of their lives. High society turns up and gossips while we also learn about the past – the aristocrat who died in a brothel and the lady poet who cannot rhyme. The book is wickedly funny but sadly not available in English.

Raül Garrigasait: Els estranys (The Others)

The latest addition to my website is Raül Garrigasait‘s Els estranys (The Others). The narrator is to translate the memoirs of Felix Lichnowsky, a Prussian army officer who fought in the Carlist wars in the mid nineteenth century. In his research, he come across the papers of Rudolf von Wielemann who was also there. Von Wielemann is an indolent Prussian who is sent by his father to Spain to help the Carlists and prove himself but when he gets there,he finds there is no role for him. He is left in Solsona when the army retreats and we follow both his stay in the battered but more or less deserted city as well as the comments on the situation by the narrator and his friend. In particular we see the conflict between Prussian order and Catalan disorder. Garrigasait uses a judicious mix of ribald humour and serious discussion to produce a first-class story.

Llorenç Villalonga: Andrea Víctrix (Andrea Víctrix)

The latest addition to my website is Llorenç Villalonga‘s Andrea Víctrix (Andrea Víctrix). This is a dystopian novel set in Palma de Mallorca but now called Turclub. Our unnamed narrator has himself frozen, aged sixty, in 1965 and wakes up in 2050, aged thirty. The first person he meets is the eponymous Andrea Victrix who, like most of the people there is androgynous. not least because, à la Brave New World, there is no more viviparous reproduction. It is all done in a laboratory. The US and Russia have destroyed one another and China is gone so the United States of Europe rules. Big business dominates and buying stuff you do not need is almost compulsory. Our hero and Andrea become close while (s)he tries to convert him to the new ways. However, our narrator and other unfrozen people and a 120 year old psychiatrist try to oppose it. When the economy really starts falling, things get problematical. While this is an excellent novel, Villalonga, through his characters, puts the various arguments for and against the new world (he is against) in a detailed but by no means off-putting manner. Another excellent book from Fum d’Estampa.

Eva Baltasar: Permagel (Permafrost)

The latest addition to my website is Eva Baltasar‘s Permagel (Permafrost). This novel is based on Baltasar being told by her therapist to write about her life, which she did, while adding quite a bit of colour to her real life. Our narrator is a lesbian, passionate about sex (but less so about life), suicidal, obsessed with reading, though ultimately quite lazy about her non-reading and non-sex life, concerned about her body and bodily functions and a good sister and aunt. We follow her excesses both in her waking and sleeping hours and her struggles to determine who she is and where she is going when she is not reading or having mad passionate sex. There no easy answers and that is what makes this book a fascinating read, as we we follow her struggles with life.

Max Besora: Aventures i desventures de l’insòlit i admirable Joan Orpí, conquistador i fundador de la Nova Catalunya (Adventures and Misadventures of the Extraordinary and Admirable Joan Orpí)

The latest addition to my website is Max Besora‘s Aventures i desventures de l’insòlit i admirable Joan Orpí, conquistador i fundador de la Nova Catalunya (Adventures and Misadventures of the Extraordinary and Admirable Joan Orpí). This is a wonderful, post-modern novel about the very real Joan Orpí who founded New Barcelona (now Barcelona), Venezuela. While there is a real book about him, this story is based on a tale told by a captain at the Siege of Barcelona and written down by a soldier and found by our narrator. Joan is a naive young Catalan who has a host of improbable and, at times anachronistic adventures, before ending up in what is now Venezuela, where he becomes governor of the city he has founded. However, his adventures are not over. It is very witty, very post-modern and very clever, with an unreliable narrator, anachronisms, improbable tales and parody everywhere.

Narcís Oller: La bogeria (The Madness)

The latest addition to my website is Narcís Oller‘s La bogeria (The Madness). This is a short novel set in the late nineteenth century about a Catalan engineer and landowner called Daniel Serralonga whom we watch slowly slipping into insanity. His parents soon fell out with his mother becoming very religious and his father a gambler. The father will disown Daniel’s younger sisters, saying he is not their father, so they are brought up by an aunt. The father will later kill himself. We are following the story through the eyes of an unnamed narrator, a lawyer, who is a friend of Daniel. He sees Daniel intermittently and each time there is some new episode dragging him towards instability – imprisonment for hitting a police commander, his obsession with General Prim and then conspiracy theories when the General is assassinated, a major inheritance dispute with his sisters, stock market problems. Each time we see him, he is looking worse and behaving more and more erratically. It is a delightful short novel, mocking, funny but also showing a certain amount of sympathy for a man who clearly cannot cope. The book is published by a new press – Fum d’Estampa Press – specialising in Catalan literature and I am looking forward to reading more of their publications.

Mercè Rodoreda: Jardí vora el mar (Garden by the Sea)

The latest addition to my website is Mercè Rodoreda‘s Jardí vora el mar (Garden by the Sea). This is a beautiful book, narrated by the gardener to a summer residence, serving successive families. We follow him as he carefully and lovingly tends the plants and garden while the well-to-do – the owner and their guests – come up from Barcelona for the summer. They and, indeed, the
other staff, have their various problems – love and romance, mental health, family – which he quietly observes and, on occasion, is called in to advise and assist with. However, he is at his happiest tending his plants or sitting in his small cottage, reminiscing about his late wife, while around him problems increase and even turn tragic.

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