‘Possibly the most impressive novel ever written in the Galician language’. With these words, the eminent critic Basilio Losada describes Suso de Toro’s novel Tick-Tock in a letter to the author. Suso de Toro is alternative in everything he does, he rearranges the boundaries, surprises the reader, does the unexpected, persons, tenses change, and what could be construed as an atheistic, chaotic novel acquires hints of religiosity. Nano, the narrator, is a man of uncertain age who has never made it in the world, but who likes to hold forth all the same, to fill notebooks with his thoughts on fishing in the Gran Sol, on controlling his libido, on inventing machines that serve no purpose. The novel centres on his experiences, and on the lives of those around him: his mother, his father and half-brother, the people who occupy the building where his mother cleans. Tick-Tock, a sequel to Polaroid, received the Spanish Critics’ Prize for its unconventionality and narrative expertise, and is the author’s most popular work.
In this second instalment of Leo’s travelling adventures, Leo, a university graduate, has been travelling on her own for three months. She finds herself on the outskirts of Ankara, the capital of Turkey, after visiting the famous rock churches of Cappadocia. She returns to Istanbul, hoping to find her current boyfriend in the hotel room where she left him. A moment of panic causes her to lash out and buy a one-way ticket to Prague, where she hooks up with a group of Americans, practises her English and tours Bohemia with its ups and downs. She then dresses up as a Vestal Virgin to see if she can fool the man of her dreams in the Roman Forum. Another misunderstanding almost leads to disaster, but the other members of Ruth & Co. – the group of buskers who are a joy for the pocket and a heaviness for the heart – prevent this, and together they travel to Siena, Bologna and Venice in Italy before Leo decides it is time to visit her favourite aunt in Paris. Along the way, Leo continues to come across graffiti that says ‘I Love You Leo A.’ – who is the anonymous author of these messages that pursue her wherever she goes?
‘Poetry is the taste of thinking in the mouth,’ writes translator Erín Moure in introducing New Leaves. In the face of so much migration and precarity, poet Rosalía de Castro sets herself to thinking and recognizes repetition as key to humanity; she views the social as intimate; she creates poems in dialogue so that subjectivity reverberates; she examines the notion of home and articulates the effects of migration on women, the widows. ‘Thinking,’ continues Moure, ‘fills the absence when love and hope are missing.’ New Leaves confronts the conundrum of human existence and the injustices suffered by those left behind in the fight (flight) for (economic) survival. As such, Rosalía de Castro is our contemporary in our own times of migration. New Leaves was her second and last major work of poetry in the Galician language, after Galician Songs, and is here presented in award-winning poet Erín Moure’s memorable translation.
In this collection of sixteen short stories by the Galician writer Miguel-Anxo Murado, the reader is taken on a journey through the various rites of passage that make up an individual’s life, from the months-old baby who lives in the eternal moment of Nothingness and quickly forgets an argument with his elder brother to the university professor who visits a colleague in Kyoto to see the cherry blossom and before the symbols of impermanence is forced to confront his own terminal illness. Children and adults alike endure extreme situations, from a child who is bullied at school to the Chinese women workers who stay up all night to prepare a handmade suit for the morning. Sailors are rescued at sea; others are cast adrift when their ship sinks, at the mercy of the current. A young man is brought face to face with his late father when surrounded by a mountain blaze; a young girl endeavors to learn the secrets to her sister’s radiant beauty. Two boys fall for the same girl; one tries to curry favor with the members of his gang in a story reminiscent of Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry, while another searches for the strength inside. All are caught in unexpected situations, elegantly and expertly described, and handed the task of how to react in a book that celebrates the human spirit across barriers of time and language.
Sam is a drug addict with a sense of humour. One particular escapade lands him in hospital, where he makes friends with the old man in the adjoining bed and becomes progressively enamoured of the nurse Miss Cowbutt’s unsung qualities. In an attempt to wean him off his drug habit, his elder brother, Nico, takes him to the village, Aita, where their grandmother lives, a world far removed from the distractions of modern life, in which even the silence seems animate. He meets up with Gaby the single mother and Dombodán the collector of discarded items. He also becomes acquainted with a slippery customer named ‘Sir’ who takes refuge in the radio set in the attic. A host of colourful characters – from Tip and Top to the ‘relentless lady’ – populate this tale, which pits a victim of zero expectations against the haunting traditions of the village.
Frank Soutelo is a down-at-heel private detective, the son of Galician immigrants, based in Los Angeles, California. He doesn’t get much choice in his assignments and has to take pretty much what’s on offer, so when he gets hired and paid an advance of twenty-five thousand dollars, he’s understandably pleased, and his secretary even more so. The unusual thing, however, is what he’s been asked to do: to recover the body of the actress Marilyn Monroe, which has reputedly gone missing from her grave in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. Big Frank, as he is known, is about to get drawn into a world that is unfamiliar to him: a world of necrophiliacs, zealous watchmen, uniformed chauffeurs and high-class mansions. The question is will he be able to extricate himself from this situation with his dignity and heart in one piece?
Clara Soutelo is a sixteen-year-old girl who spends her summers in the town of Vilarelle in Galicia. She descends from a well-to-do family that was on the winning side in Spain’s Civil War and that occupies the manor house in Vilarelle. All the local families look up to them, and Clara has taken this attitude for granted. That is until the summer of 1995, when a skeleton is discovered in the manor house during restoration work. It has been walled up for many years, perhaps since the time of the Civil War, and the skull has a bullet hole. Clara also discovers a ring bearing the initial ‘R’. What is the identity of the victim, and who wielded the murder weapon? The search for the discovery of the truth will lead Clara into her family’s inglorious past through the witness of the town’s inhabitants, and will also sow the seeds of romance between her and a young mechanic by the name of Miguel, descendant of the bookbinder Ishmael, with whom she shares the secret pleasure of reading.
By the winner of the 2015 Spanish National Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature, Heart of Jupiter is the story of a teenage girl, Isla, who moves home and has to start over at a new school in Region. Here she makes friends with Mar, who helps her adjust to her new circumstances, but she also comes across Oak, who is determined to make her life miserable and seems to bear a grudge. She spends her nights chatting online with Jupiter. They share a common passion for the stars. Isla finds solace in their relationship, but Mar remains unconvinced and would prefer to see Isla in a relationship with Anxo, a boy from their school, someone she has actually seen. Isla is insistent, however: Jupiter and she have arranged to meet on Midsummer’s Eve, when they will finally discover whether their online relationship is for real…
In this second instalment of the saga by Elena Gallego Abad devoted to the Galician dragon Dragal, the schoolboy Hadrián, who with his friend Mónica discovered the dragon’s remains in the catacombs under St Peter’s Church, is locked in a struggle with the dragon to see who will come out on top. Mónica has promised to take some food to the Moor’s Pool, where her friend has gone for refuge, but is unsure what dragons eat when they’re not devastating the local population. Before setting out, however, she receives strange, handwritten messages of warning, telling her not to go. She seeks help – first from the parish priest, Father Xurxo, who produces an ancient box containing three objects that might be the Grand Master’s keys, and then from a police officer, Cortiñas, who turns out to have a vested interest in the dragon’s well-being. When Hadrián goes missing, his mother calls the police, but only Mónica knows where he really is. Will she inform the police and break her promise not to reveal where he is hiding? If she does, will the police be in time to save her friend, and what will become of the dragon he has started to turn into?
‘The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown,’ writes H. P. Lovecraft at the start of his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature. In real life, the author Agustín Fernández Paz, Galicia’s answer to H. P. Lovecraft, is reading the newspaper and comes across a classified ad for a haunted house. He imagines what would happen if someone answered that ad. Then what would happen if they went to see the house and liked it. Then what would happen if they had enough money and decided to buy it. And finally what would happen if they went to live there and discovered that the house was really haunted. This is the plot of Winter Letters, one of the best-selling Galician novels of all time. The house will bring to mind, for older readers, the Bates’ home in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho. Inside the house is a book of prints that may remind younger readers of Tom Riddle’s diary in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. However this may be, the reader is sure to be drawn in by the force and power of the narrative, which is as smooth and sinuous as the sirens’ song heard by Ulysses from the sanctuary of the mast of his ship.