SmallStations - Books in English
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.
After university, Leo is due to go travelling for six months with her friends Aldara, Inés and Martiño, but at the last minute her friends pull out and Leo is left to travel on her own. Her first stop, in Lisbon, Portugal, is a rain-soaked disaster. She is dragged around the city by her overbearing host and only really gets a feel for the city during the final few days, when she is cooped up in his apartment. But everything changes with her next destination, Barcelona, where she meets up with a group of friends from Latin America who call themselves ‘Ruth & Co.’ and busk for a living. Romance, excitement, frustration, appalling and luxurious living conditions, familiar and foreign cultures, follow as Leo travels to Granada, Córdoba, Seville and Cádiz in Andalusia, Marrakesh in Morocco and finally Istanbul. In this first instalment of Leo’s travelling adventures, Leo discovers that she must learn how to leave a place before she can truly enjoy her experiences, and how travelling can bring you back full circle. She is also mystified by the graffiti that keeps appearing along her route: ‘I Love You Leo A.’ Who is it that has scrawled this graffiti wherever she goes, and what do they want? Only by continuing with her journey and not giving up will Leo find out the answer to this riddle!
Shakespearean drama set in a Galician context. There is something strikingly postmodern – or Elizabethan – about this novel, in which a man from Laracha, south-west of Coruña, on Galicia’s famed Coast of Death, is on the run for committing a multiple murder that shocks the local community and has the priest calling for the razing of the local slums. Chucho Monteiro, who has always been overlooked by his father in favor of his younger brother, Daniel, more pliable, less violent, heads to the port of Coruña in order to effect his escape on the first ship weighing anchor, a ship that will take him not to Stratford, but to Southampton and on. In a fascinating, multi-layered narrative, the author keeps the reader guessing about the murderer’s final destination until the very end. Narrative chronology is mixed up, and the veil between author and reader is torn in two, so that we’re not sure if we are witnesses or partakers of this narrative. Vicious (called Criminal in Galician) is Xurxo Borrazás’ second and best-known novel, and won him the Spanish Critics’ Prize as well as the San Clemente Prize awarded by high-school readers.
The death of a foreign cameraman outside Karlovac, the threat of Serbian snipers in Zagreb, a massacre of village peasants by guerrilla fighters, a young Croat who joins forces with a Serbian scrap merchant and is caught up in a confrontation with Gypsies competing for scrap metal left over by the war… The stories in Miguel-Anxo Murado’s Soundcheck: Tales from the Balkan Conflict focus on the hostilities between Croats and Serbs during the 1991 war in Croatia. Told with chilling brevity and disarming intensity, the stories bring to life a conflict the author himself covered as a foreign correspondent and are based on real-life events or conversations that took place during the war. Miguel-Anxo Murado, a regular contributor to The New York Times and The Guardian newspapers, is known for his fiction based on his experiences as a journalist in war-torn regions of the world, from the ex-Yugoslavia to the Middle East. Inspired by fleeting conversations or poignant scenes, he draws universal lessons about the nature and ultimate destiny of humankind.
One of the most exciting works of literature to have come out of Galicia in the last thirty years, and the first adult-fiction title by Suso de Toro to be made available in the English-language market. There is something startling about this book. With Raymond Carver-like simplicity, the author extracts the commonplace events and ordinary frustrations of life, shedding light on them, exalting them and undermining them at the same time, so that the reader is left in a hiatus, expectant and fulfilled. What goes on here is impossible, outrageous, and yet it happens. A blind man beats and is poisoned by his wife, an aged housemaid tries to breastfeed the baby when the parents are out, a second-hand typewriter insists on typing out its own message, a rapist awaits the family’s vengeance while wishing he knew the victim’s name, a cash machine flirts with a customer of the bank by making spurious deposits into her account, a jumper turns murderous, a porn model seeks an intimate relationship that isn’t confined to the glossy pages of a magazine, a mother loses track of her child, Cain and Abel appear in modern dress, the hero Theseus is driven to question whether he really is a hero or not, a man finds his wife having an affair in the wardrobe… There is something absolutely surprising about these stories that signalled a new direction in post-Franco Galician literature, in a book the author himself described as ‘an outburst of fury inspired by punk.’
From the author of The Low Voices and The Carpenter’s Pencil, the book of short stories that set him on his way and revolutionized Galician literature when it came out at the end of the 1980s. For the first time, Galician prose dealt with the Galician landscape in a modern context, uniting tradition and modernity, placing the poetry of landscape alongside the irony of modern society. In One Million Cows, a collection of eighteen short stories by Manuel Rivas, the first he published, a boy tries to find out if his cousin is really a battery-operated robot, a sailor who has been shipwrecked at sea turns up dead in a local bar, the inhabitants of a village transport a young suicide so that he can be buried in an adjoining parish, a Galician who has recently returned from England dreams of building a golf course on the mud-flats of his childhood, and a prospective councillor is put off by the fish scales on a fishwife’s hands. Manuel Rivas is Galicia’s most international author, and once again the reader will be able to enjoy his striking metaphors, his commitment to what he writes, and his lingering eye for detail.
Xosé María Díaz Castro (1914-1990) is considered one of the greatest exponents of twentieth-century Galician poetry, alongside such names as Álvaro Cunqueiro, Celso Emilio Ferreiro and Aquilino Iglesia Alvariño. He published only one book during his lifetime, Halos. A short book, it comprises thirty-two poems divided into seven sections and containing one of the most emblematic of all Galician poems, ‘Penelope’. The book embraces such themes as the writing of poetry, the poet’s love for Galicia and his philosophical concerns, including his religious faith. Many of the poems were written in hendecasyllables and alexandrines and this translation by John Rutherford has set out to reproduce the metre as well as the meaning with remarkable success. The deep-seated concerns of this man, a translator and schoolteacher as well as a poet, are brought into English for the first time.
After the death of his father in a caving accident, Hadrián is forced to move to Galicia with his mother and start at a new school. His mother gives him a medallion that belonged to his father, showing a dragon in a threatening posture on one side and the same dragon incubating an egg on the other. When the dragon’s tails move, the boy realizes this is no ordinary medallion. Meanwhile, he has noticed the stone effigy of a dragon on the cornice of St Peter’s Church, which winks at him and infiltrates his thoughts. The boy’s destiny, it seems, is to sacrifice himself so that the dragon can come back to life after an interval of a thousand years, during which it has been protected in the catacombs under the church. The boy and his classmate Mónica will first have to locate the catacombs with the help of the parish priest, Father Xurxo, before they can ascertain whether the dragon’s existence is for real.