SmallStations - Carys Evans−Corrales

A young woman, who has left Galicia to go and study marine biology in Mexico (Baja California), is recalled to Galicia when it is found out that her mother is very sick. Her aunt would like her to sign some papers agreeing to take over the family business and renouncing her Mexican studies and emotional ties that she has forged in her new life. However, returning to Galicia and renewing her family ties is not exactly what the woman wants. Her mother has shut herself in her room for the last year, and relations between them have always been strained. She received more affection from a nanny, Felisa, and better advice from her uncle, Cándido. There is also an older brother, Ramón, a larger-than-life figure who has left an indelible mark in the lives of those around him, and an absent father. Will the woman’s visit to see her sick mother turn out to be permanent, and will it soothe any of the festering wounds in her psyche, wounds that she has buried beneath her marine studies and a relationship with her one-time tutor? That’s How Whales Are Born is a return to our origins, a search into the usefulness of stirring up past memories and seeking reconciliation.

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.

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.

In this extraordinary account, Carys Evans-Corrales takes the reader on a cultural rollercoaster ride. As a child growing up in the Singapore, Malaysia and Jamaica of the 1950s and 1960s, the author came into contact with a host of languages and cultural influences, ranging from the Hainanese she spoke as a toddler to the Welsh counting song and English nursery rhymes she was taught by her mother to the Mandarin songs of Chinese children. In Kuala Lumpur, she came into contact with Malay, whose idioms delighted her, and in Kingston, Jamaica, with Jamaican patois, where she was shocked by the racially charged atmosphere. In Jamaica, she was introduced to Spanish, which conditioned her next move – to study Linguistics at York University in the UK, specializing in Spanish. This, in turn, led to a year abroad in Seville, where the author played the role of Andalusian novia, and, after completing her undergraduate degree, to a year of research in Salamanca. During this year, she was offered a job at the university in Santiago de Compostela, where she went in 1974, just as the Franco years were coming to an end and Galicia was recovering its language and identity. But it was in a move to America, in 1985, that the author finally acquired her own identity and laid the ghosts of her past to rest. The account of these years is littered with anecdotes about local people, school friends, linguistic conundrums and political backdrops, and offers a sweeping view of the second half of the twentieth century lived out on three continents.

Pilar Pallarés is considered one of the most evocative voices in contemporary Galician poetry. A Leopard Am I, published in Galician in 2011, is her fourth poetry collection and was awarded the poetry prize of the Galician-Language Writers Association. She has also published In the Dusk (1980), Seventh Solitude (1984, winner of the Esquío Prize for poetry) and Book of Devorations (1996, winner of the Galician Critics’ Prize for literary creation). She has written extensively on other Galician poets such as Rosalía de Castro (whose Galician Songs is published by Small Stations Press), Luís Pimentel and Ricardo Carvalho Calero. This is her first collection to appear in English.