SmallStations - Books in English
Against a background of perceived attacks on established religion by the politicians of the day, and the introduction of the newfangled cinematograph to the city of Ourense, the local bishop, His Excellency, faces dissent in the ranks. His assistant, Don Xenaro, while struggling to preserve his loyalty to the bishop, is drawn to side with the canon theologian, Don Telesforo, who is vehemently opposed to the new invention. No less an opponent is the much revered, and soon to be sainted, local nun, Sister Sabina, who appeals to the bishop to save his soul. The bishop seeks solace in food, in the once intellectual but now ailing company of his aged vicar, in memories of a better time, when he studied at the seminary, but ghosts rarely lie down easily, and he will have to chase them away if he doesn’t wish to be defeated. A visit to the cinema, where he witnesses the rowdy atmosphere, the impressive images and the poverty of its pioneers, an indulgent attitude… If he’s not careful, others at the start of this tumultuous twentieth century will take matters into their own hands, and dissent will turn into open revolt. A hilarious look at the internal politics of a cathedral chapter, at the confrontation between conservative and liberal elements, His Excellency is one of Galician writer Carlos Casares’ best-loved and most enduring novels.
There are three main threads in Karen Harrison’s poetry, which intertwine: nature, God and her personal life. But they are not simply ontological, they belong to each other, they widen each other, they talk amongst themselves. In Harrison’s nature, there is room for many birds, but the most important are those that sing at night (hence the title of the book), just as God made darkness His home. Her God is a long pilgrimage starting with an entire belonging, but also allowing for a critical mind: she will protest in front of the United Nations about Him, who permitted such diversity in faith, but accepts only true believers. In her intimate moments, she suffered a terrible illness, but this is not a reason for closing herself off; for Harrison, it is a source of communication. The soul of this poet is open towards the other. It is a poetry – and a life – of relation. In this way, she confirms that most Christian postulate: that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. We hold in our hands a book of aesthetic poetry, a silent book that sounds more like messages than conversation. This is autobiographical poetry, but it has deeper roots in the Spirit, which Church Fathers describe as a fish swimming in the open sea, in God. “Like a fish in an aquarium, I am a thing of the Spirit,” writes Harrison.
Fools for Christ are men and women who live outside the social norms, whose behavior is considered shocking or unusual. But in a time of dictatorship, when these stories were first published, “foolish” behavior can be a form of protest. So, a child who is unable to access the forbidden fruits of a pastry shop, out of protest, refuses to eat the chickpeas that are offered to him; another child, who cannot pay for a ride on the merry-go-round, slips under the tarpaulin when the ride is not working and creates his own ride out of his own fantasy. A fat child, who is bullied and made fun of by the town’s more respectable children, makes friends with a paschal lamb, which then, to his shock and horror, is served up for dinner. Another boy takes to setting the corner of a whitewashed house on fire with his coloring pencils. It is the children who throw away their toys or who torture animals that are somehow considered normal. The Foolish Children contains twenty-one micro-fiction stories by Ana María Matute in Spanish and in English translation. The original was first published in Spain during Franco’s dictatorship. It was rated by the Nobel laureate Camilo José Cela as “the most important work written in Spanish by a woman since the Countess Emilia Pardo Bazán.” Ana María Matute, along with Camilo José Cela and Miguel Delibes, is widely considered one of Spain’s most distinguished writers of fiction in the twentieth century. She was awarded the National Prize for Literature twice and, in 2010, received the Spanish-speaking world’s most prestigious literary award, the Cervantes.
‘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.