SmallStations - Books in English

Listing Ship, winner of the prestigious Xerais Prize for Novels, is a rare insight into the life of rural Galicia in the last days of the Second Spanish Republic, before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. We are introduced to the life of the local community centred around the village of Sernanselle (actual Manselle), southwest of Santiago de Compostela and close to the majestic Ulla river as it leaves Padrón and heads toward the Arousa estuary. There is María, who writes letters for her mother to Ramón, the son who has emigrated and whose help would be a boon around the house. Then there is Roiz Bustelo, an emigrant who has returned from Buenos Aires and is keen to invest his money in a dairy factory. Amaro, Roiz’s son, who catalogues prehistoric remains that are to be found in the municipality. Camoiras, who seems to have most of his attention placed on María’s pitch-black, defiant eyes. And the Master, Don Antonio, the local doctor who struggles to keep up with the latest advances in medicine. Other projects include buying a threshing machine for the entire village. But such advances will come up against the rise of fascism, the shadow of the Spanish Civil War, which threatens to spill over into violence. The novel stands as a monument to the possibilities humankind has to work together for the common good and as a lament for the self-inflicted tragedy of bigotry and antagonism. Whatever people’s aspirations may be, however they may be formulated, working together, mutual understanding, has to be preferred over sticks and stones.

Ramón Lamote, a living representation of the city he inhabits, aged sixty-one, gives private lessons in a local dialect, Terra Chá, and augments his income by taking on commissions to draw dreams. He is a keen observer of the life that goes on around him, unfailingly polite and ever willing to lend a helping hand. On a visit to a large important house in the city centre, he comes across a book that warns of the imminent arrival of a dragon-like creature called a Noticer, which awakens every 696 years, and he hurries to inform the Lord Mayor (though getting in to see him requires all his ingenuity). On another occasion, a fat woman is blocking the stairs, and Ramón Lamote is unable to find a way past her to make it to his lesson on time. He is invited to give a lecture on a kind of domestic animal and chooses the Endomodelph, an egg-laying mammal that sings and whistles through its behind. An enormous pipe appears one day in front of his house, which seems to serve no purpose until the local children come up with a use for it, which quickly catches on. After his lessons, the teacher and drawer of dreams likes to visit the local railway station and to play at guessing people’s destinations. And in July he places an advertisement in the newspaper for the first ever Cloud Race, with marmolubles for prizes, an idea that draws the Lord Mayor’s attention and soon has everybody talking about it. In The Things of Ramón Lamote, a modern classic of Galician literature and one of the first works in Galician to win the Spanish National Book Award, we are invited to witness the sublime and ordinary, the comic and absurd features of life in a provincial city.

All is not well between Hadrián and Mónica. Hadrián is licking his wounds, after having been betrayed in the crypt and lost the dragon’s powers as they were being transferred to him. All he thinks about is getting the dragon’s powers back and being able to fly again. But he has started avoiding his girlfriend, Mónica, who reminds him of the status he has lost. And yet he can’t help remembering the last time they were together at the Moor’s Pool and the intimacy they shared. Meanwhile, Mónica has problems of her own – and not just the mathematical equations set by their teacher Miss Ermidas. Her period is late, and she is aware of an ever so slight heartbeat in her womb. If the prophecy that said, ‘The day will come when the dragon’s son will regain the power wrested from its father,’ did not in fact refer to Hadrián, could it refer to the creature she is carrying? And how will Hadrián react to the news that she might be pregnant? In this fourth instalment of the saga about the Galician dragon Dragal, the relationships between the members of the Fraternity – Hadrián, Mónica, the policeman Cortiñas, the museum director Iria, Hadrián’s mother Carme and his erstwhile rival Brais – become confused. Their ambitions collide, so they cannot always work together. And a new parish priest, Don Miguel, enters the mix, who is as keen as anybody to discover the ancient catacombs beneath the church that lead to the dragon’s crypt. But with the summer solstice approaching, who will make it there first – the dragon’s allies or its enemies?

The Roman poet Ovid’s famous book of poetry Metamorphoses contains a succession of women who are changed into something else after they have been raped. One of these is Medusa, the Gorgon, daughter of the sea deities (and also siblings) Phorcys and Ceto. She is reputed to have been a ravishingly beautiful maiden, with striking hair, who received the attention of many suitors. She was raped by the god of the sea, Neptune, in Minerva’s temple. In anger at this desecration of her temple, Minerva turned Medusa’s hair into serpents and made her face so terrible to behold that it would turn any who looked at it into stone. The Greek hero Perseus, son of Jupiter and the mortal Danaë, was sent by the king of Seriphos, Polydectes, who desired Perseus’ mother and wished to get Perseus out of the way, to behead the Gorgon. For this purpose, he received help from the gods: a shield of polished bronze, winged sandals, an adamantine sword and Hades’ helm of darkness (or invisibility cloak). According to the myth, he beheaded her in her sleep and used her head as a weapon before giving it to Minerva. But who is the real victim here? Medusa suffers for her beauty. She is raped by a god and punished by another. People then avoid looking her in the eye in case they are turned to stone. And how does the myth of Medusa relate to two students in Galicia in their final year at school, Sofía and Lupe, who after a fancy-dress dinner, in the early hours of the morning, are picked up by two men and sexually assaulted? What will the reaction of their classmates be? Will they be prepared to look them in the eye? And how will the girls themselves respond to this assault in a society that may prefer to sweep its acts of indecency under the carpet and turn a blind eye? Head of Medusa is a story of wrongdoing, friendship, renewal and moral courage.

During the Spanish Civil War, two sisters, Harmony and Rose, are sent to Russia by their parents for their own safety. Their father is a soldier in the Republican army, their mother a nurse in a field hospital. The children board the French cargo ship that is to take them on the fifteen-day journey to Leningrad, or St Petersburg as it is also known, but unfortunately their mother is unable to arrive in time to see them off. In Russia, they are treated well, looked after by the woman in charge of the children’s home, María do Mar, and attend school. They are given a task to write a letter to their nearest relatives, and all Harmony can do is apologize for leaving without saying goodbye to their mother, hoping she isn’t angry. Rose contributes a drawing of a red hen surrounded by chicks. As the years pass, the children develop a close friendship with another refugee child, Leo, the only one who boarded the ship without bursting into tears. The war in Spain reaches its conclusion only to be replaced by the Second World War, which marks the events in this story irrevocably. This is a charming story, full of humour and tenderness, in which parents struggle to do the right thing, children grow up ahead of time and dreams become reality for those who remain persistent.

Stones Of Ithaca is a book about God in language and in the environment. It sets out to provide proof for the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity through words such as one and moon, for Jesus Christ as the Son of God through the question words who and why, and for the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God through words such as mother and Messiah. There is a progression in language from A to I to O: A is the letter of creation, as related in the first two chapters of Genesis; I is the letter of the ego, the era we currently find ourselves in; and O is the letter of repentance, when we count down from the ego and turn to God. Stones Of Ithaca looks not only at a theology of language, but also at a theology of stones, in which stones are not faceless objects, but part of God’s creation, decorated with drawings of scenery, vegetation, fish, birds, animals, ships. They are inscribed with faces and marked with the eternal symbol of the Cross. The book contains eighty black-and-white photographs of stones collected on the beaches of the Greek island of Ithaca, the famous homeland of Odysseus, who after the Trojan War is forced to wander for ten years for his blinding of Poseidon’s son Polyphemus and who, having been reunited with his wife and regained his palace, is destined to set out again with an oar in his hand in fulfillment of a prophecy of Tiresias. Can parallels be drawn between Odysseus and Christ, the Odyssey and the Old Testament? Stones – and words – are the protagonists of this book in which everyday objects are revealed to hold a much deeper meaning.

In this third and final instalment of Leo’s travelling adventures, Leo has been travelling for four months, but an amorous snub received while she is in Paris makes her want to call it a day and go straight home without completing the planned six months of her trip. Her aunt’s insistence and a surprise visit help Leo reconsider her hasty decision and, just as she was expecting to return to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, where she is from, she finds herself on a transatlantic flight to Buenos Aires. When she was planning this trip with her friends, who ended up pulling out, she had never envisaged travelling to South America, but now she will be swallowed up by the infinite grid of Argentina’s capital city, she will be pursued by the shadow of Argentina’s first serial killer as far as the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, she will be entranced by the magical beauty of the famous Perito Moreno Glacier with all its shades of blue, she will finally fulfil her dream of visiting Machu Picchu in Peru, she will be unimpressed by the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, be doused in sugar in the white city of Arequipa and walk under the grey Lima sky. Back in Buenos Aires, at the end of six months, she will face a critical decision, which may lead her to the author of all those messages that have appeared in front of most of the monuments she has visited: ‘I Love You Leo A.’ Who has been painting these messages wherever she goes? And having once set out on her travels, will Leo ever manage to return back home?

When Guiomar Brelivete, a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl who lives in Audierna, is told by her parents that she must start attending klavia lessons in the old quarter of Plugufan and miss training sessions for maila, her favourite sport, she is understandably annoyed. But her teacher, Mastrina Xaoven, turns out to have a sense of humour and agrees, in return for Guiomar learning to play the instrument, to tell her a story about a girl called Attica who is a member of the politically powerful Gwende community. The traditional inhabitants of the land, the Malluma community, have been confined to the nabrallos or suburbs, where Gwendes are not supposed to go. But one evening Attica boards a train to the nabrallo of Bragunde, hoping to attend a concert in one of the famous hicupé clubs, and there she meets Fuco, a Malluma boy who claims to be a firewalker. The nabrallo has been overrun by a plague of scorpions, and the children resolve to consult the witch Onga, Queen of the Cemetery, about this. They will learn that a far greater evil lurks beneath them, in the lost underground world of Nigrofe, where the balance between good and evil has been obliterated by the removal of a sacred tree, and it rests on them to restore that balance if only they can find a way in… In these two tales, the line between fiction and reality is blurred, and there is a striking resemblance between the old music teacher and the intrepid girl in her story.

Nico is a computer programmer from Coruña in Galicia. On a business trip to the city of Bergen in Norway, he visits the quays of Bryggen, a place he has been to before. He buys a couple of postcards from a shop there and, much to his surprise, discovers that one of them has captured the moment when he and his friends visited Bergen on an Interrail trip after leaving school ten years earlier. There they all are: Óscar in his Deportivo football shirt with Bea; Nico with the slightly pretentious Mía, poring over a map; the Italian exchange student, Piero, a few feet behind them. But where is Nico’s girlfriend, Aroa, and his best friend from school, Xacobe, the other two members of the group? Nico is shocked to find that they are in a corner of the postcard away from the others and are kissing. He resolves to unearth all the mystery surrounding that trip and the bitter month of September that immediately followed, when a tragedy occurred, a tragedy that split the group apart and from which no one has recovered. He will invite all his friends to a school reunion and, by gauging their reactions to the postcard, finally learn the truth of what happened.

Private Detective Frank Soutelo has left behind the stress and strain of Los Angeles, California, to take a break in his ancestral home of Galicia in northwest Spain, but on his arrival at Lavacolla Airport he is distressed to find that a forest fire has taken hold of the outskirts of the Galician capital, Santiago de Compostela, making visibility difficult. It is August 2006, and temperatures have risen to almost unbearable levels. There are those who believe that the blaze has been started deliberately, a way of clearing land in order to build houses, despite the fact there is supposed to be a moratorium in such cases. One property developer in particular, Marcial Dalama, nicknamed The Terminator because of his fondness for all things Arnold Schwarzenegger, is under scrutiny, but there are those who maintain the fires are started by environmental activists such as Comando Pola Terra or Earth Command. Frank may have been hoping to settle at his aunt’s house in Muros on the west coast and to enjoy her homemade dishes – hake casserole, or sole with mussels – while visiting the local bar run by Poncio, an ex-explosives expert in the Civil Guard, but it seems destiny has other plans. His cousin’s school friend has lost her son to an alleged overdose of heroin; the parents refuse to accept the autopsy results and want Frank to investigate, which he will do, being drawn into a world of big-money stakes, grassroots activism, attractive women, and there will even be a cameo role for his old friend, Sugar Jones the Mortician.

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