SmallStations - Jonathan Dunne

In order for Dragal to come back to life, possibly at the expense of Hadrián’s humanity, the descendants of the original seven knights must meet in the dragon’s crypt at midnight on the first full moon of the spring equinox, which coincides with Easter night. They must have the keys of the Secret Science with them: the parchment that stands for Wisdom, the master crystal that signifies Strength, and the alchemical egg that represents the dragon’s Secret. The parish priest, Don Xurxo, and the policeman who investigated Hadrián’s previous disappearance, Cortiñas, are considered to be two knights, but even counting Hadrián and Hadrián’s mother, that still leaves another three knights that will have to be convened if the Dragon’s Fraternity is to be complete and successfully fulfil the prophecy about the dragon’s child regaining the power wrested from its father and releasing the telluric forces. Perhaps the fire at St Peter’s, which has destroyed much of the inside of the church, will act as a magnet, attracting the other members of the fraternity and enabling the ritual to be carried out. But with services for Holy Week transferred to the sports pavilion, and a nosy bishop, the race is on to reach the dragon’s crypt in time.

It is several years since the events of Brother of the Wind, the prequel to Flower of Sand, and Amrah, the daughter of the mayor of Qhissa Hanni in the mountains of north Iraq, has adapted to her new life in Kirkuk. Her father has gone from being mayor of a small village to becoming a pivotal figure in the oil business, an intermediary between foreign corporations and local companies, and an aspiring politician. He has betrothed his daughter to his business partner, the governing judge Jemaa Lefta. Amrah, however, has not forgotten her childhood sweetheart, Khaled, or her wish to study architecture at university and design buildings in the new Iraq. Her studies bring her into contact with a local resistance leader, Haytham al-Taleb, and when her father falsely accuses her mother of adultery and divorces her, she agrees to provide Haytham with information about his business activities. Her involvement with the resistance will go much further than that, however, taking her down a road she would never have imagined, and ultimately salvation will take the form of the most unexpected person in her life.

Khaled is an Iraqi boy, a member of the Koblai tribe, growing up in the village of Qhissa Hanni in the mountains of north Iraq. He has left school to look after his family’s flock of sheep, but his father and the local schoolteacher think he has the makings of a writer, so they give him a notebook in which he records his aspirations, events in the village, the life of his family, his wish to own a horse which he will call ‘Ahu al-Rih’ or ‘Brother of the Wind’, his secret engagement to the mayor’s daughter, Amrah, so secret that even she doesn’t know about it, the time when he and a friend go frog hunting and slip a couple of frogs into the midwife’s bag, causing havoc when the midwife is due to assist in the birth of Ilaisha’s son… The book is presented as a series of letters which Khaled writes to the son of a European archaeologist, Dr Meira, nicknamed ‘Al-Galego’, who has taken up residence in the village in order to pursue his archaeological studies and because he has grown fond of the Iraqi way of life. But the invasion of the country in 2003 by the United States and its allies casts a heavy shadow over this remote village and its inhabitants, who struggle to come to terms with the issues that are at stake and who will have to draw on all their reserves of courage and strength if they are to survive. The war will bring tragedy to the village and will force Khaled to undertake a journey he has never imagined before, to the heart of the country’s capital, Baghdad. This is a journey of principle, of courage over fear, of faith and friendship, of self-sacrifice, that will change Khaled’s expectations forever.

Inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, The Book of Imaginary Journeys by Xabier P. DoCampo follows in the tradition of great travel literature that began with Homer’s Odyssey. It purports to be the transcription of two travel journals written by a certain X.B.R., in which the Traveller gives as objective a description as he can of the cities and kingdoms he visits. So it is he comes to a city you can only visit for three days or where you cannot fall asleep, a city balanced on the fine point of a diamond or rotating on a water wheel, a city whose inhabitants are all tree-dwelling women or descended from birds, a city where the tombstones are inscribed not with the names of the deceased but with the titles of their favourite books, a city where money is only valid for a year, where none of its inhabitants can go fishing because all the rods have been turned into soldiers’ lances, whose ministers are made to wear nooses as a warning to stay clean… The Traveller records songs, proverbs and remedies he hears along the way and describes some of the people he meets – a woman who conducts imaginary orchestras, a man who loves the earth so much he would like to plough it with a pair of unicorns, another searching for a treasure guarded by seven keys… Like translation, travel is a return to the source, the point of departure. What the Traveller takes away from the experience is what he has learned.

In An Animal Called Mist, a book of six short stories, the Galician author Ledicia Costas (Winner of the 2015 Spanish National Book Award) walks the tightrope between fiction and reality in a superb and sometimes shocking narrative. She bases herself on real events in and after the Second World War – the Siege of Leningrad, the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the interrogation of Italian partisans by the Banda Koch, the sexual exploitation of women internees in Nazi concentration camps, the trials of high-ranking Nazi officials – and then recreates them, changing and inventing biographical details, giving free rein to her writer’s imagination in order to produce a sequence of stories that look not so much at historical fact as at the essence of barbarism, the capacity of the human mind to conceive ways of torturing and tormenting fellow human beings. This is not a historical account of the Second World War – for that, the reader should consult works of history – but a book of fiction that focuses on the shadow projected by the events, their essence, the granulated content of their darkness. Ledicia Costas is one of Galicia’s best-known writers who, in the tradition of writers such as Manuel Rivas and Agustín Fernández Paz, magnifies the voice of the persecuted in her narrative. An Animal Called Mist won the Losada Diéguez Prize for Literary Creation in 2016.

‘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?

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.

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…

Page 1 of 3