Archive for July, 2022

Chilean Poet

July 28, 2022

Given that Alejandro Zambra’s previous novel, Multiple Choice, was exactly that – a novel written in the form of multiple-choice questions – it would be fair to say that readers (most recently instructed Not to Read) can never be sure what to expect next. So perhaps we should not be too surprised that Zambra, who began his writing life a poet and was initially praised for short, poetic novels, has, with Chilean Poet, written his longest and most prosaic novel yet; long enough to, in fact, to make identifying its central character an example of multiple choice.

It begins as the story of Gonzalo, an aspiring poet, who we first meet as an aspiring lover, longing to progress from covert groping under a blanket with his girlfriend, Carla, to actual sex. An opportunity occurs when a road accident empties Carla’s home:

“Counting the thirty seconds the penetration lasted and the three and a half minutes they spent cleaning up the drops of blood and assimilating the insipid experience, the entire process took a mere four minutes.”

This is our first indication that Zambra’s poets are not heroic figures in a novel where male characters in particular will often find themselves more laughed at than lauded. Carla at first refuses to see Gonzalo again and then breaks up with him; it is at this point he discovers his love of verse:

“Gonzalo had no other option than to go all in on poetry: he locked himself in his room and in a mere five days produced forty-two sonnets.”

Though there is a brief reconciliation (a second attempt in a hotel room “Lasted about as long as it would take  a hundred-meter sprinter to run the first fifty meters”) the relationship ends but, as this amusing tale of adolescent love takes only the opening twenty pages, and it is not giving away too much to reveal they meet again number of years later in a gay bar – Gonzalo’s opening gambit is, “I’m not gay!” They rekindle their relationship, and, as Carla now has a child (Vincente), Gonzalo soon becomes part of a ready-made family. Zambra writes about relationships beautifully. He is particularly good on the way arguments escalate, for example when Gonzalo is caught letting Vincente ride in the front seat which Carla has expressly forbidden – he accepts he is in the wrong until she uses the word ‘betrayal’ to which he immediately adopts a passive aggressive tone:

“I’m so sorry for taking care of Vincente every single day.”

This, in turn, leads Carla to comment that at “times like this it’s clear you’re not his real father.” In fact, identifying his relationship with Vincente is something that torments Gonzalo. At one point, when asked, he says they are ‘friends’. Later, he reflects on the fact that stepfather in Spanish is much less positive term than in other languages. Eventually they reach the point where:

“Usually Carla thought that if she died, Gonzalo would go on living with Vincente. Gonzalo also thought that.”

Of course, this is not how things turn out.

Having invested half the novel in Gonzalo and Carla’s relationship, Part III begins with another fast forward through time. Vincente is a young adult and he, too, wishes to be a poet, and he, too, is in love – with an older American woman, Pru, whom he first met vomiting at the roadside. In many ways, Pru, rather than Vincente, is the main character of this section. We learn her back story: her escape from an abusive relationship; her love affair with her room-mate, Jessye; their plan to go to Chile and write an article for a magazine; Jessye backing out at the last moment – and, having bought the tickets, sending Pru to entirely the wrong part of Chile:

“If I had bought them, I wouldn’t be a dumb gringa lost at the ass-end of the world.”

Unfortunately, Pru is a less interesting character than either Gonzalo or Carla (who is now very much in the background), and her decision to research Chilean poets for her article leads us into literary satire, and, I suspect more than one dig at Bolano (whether at his expense or at the expense of his American readership is less clear). This is as entertaining as the earlier part of the novel but less engaging. Luckily, Zambra is not finished with Gonzalo, and, in the final part, the novel will return to his relationship with Vincente.

Chilean Poet is a warm-hearted, hopeful novel which showcases Zambra’s skill at writing relationships with both heart and humour. It is particularly good on the stepfather / stepson relationship between Gonzalo and Vincente, much more common in life than literature, which it portrays with great humanity. All Zambra’s characters are flawed, but no-one (not even Vincente’s real father, Leon) is entirely written off by the author. In the end, Zambra shows us poetry transcending literature to express love.

Lost Books – Two Crimes

July 23, 2022

Sadly, having read The Lightning of August and The Dead Girls, Two Crimes is the last of Mexican author Jorge Ibarguengoitia’s novels available in English (translated by Asa Zatz in 1984, five years after it was originally published). Another three novels remain untranslated as well as numerous short stories. The pity of this is that Ibarguengoitia is one of Latin America’s most entertaining writers (Juan Pablo Villalobos would be a good example of a modern writer with a similar sensibility) – and Two Crimes is probably his most entertaining book.

The novel begins straight-forwardly enough with a party thrown by Marcos and his wife, the Chamuca (which seems to be Portuguese for samosa leaving me to imagine a lewder interpretation…) to celebrate their wedding anniversary. This, however, is the traditional moment of happiness before their lives fall apart, a collapse which originates in the seemingly innocuous arrival of an uninvited guest, Evodio, who asks to stay the night. Although they know Evodio is a “dedicated activist” they have little idea of the danger this will put them in until they receive a phone call at work the next day to tell them that police are searching their apartment:

“And so that portion of my life came to a close.”

They go straight to the bus station and separate: the Chamuca to her cousins and Marcos to his uncle, Ramon, to borrow money so they can “go somewhere to live until this blows over.” As Marcos is narrating the novel, we follow him to his uncle’s – where he is refused entry by his cousin, Amalia. Unwittingly, Marcos finds himself at the centre of battle for his uncle’s inheritance, but he is able to gain admittance the next day when he returns with his uncle’s friend, Don Pepe. In fact, Marcos’ plan to get money from his uncle has nothing to do with any potential inheritance – instead he tells Ramon he has a business opportunity, an abandoned mine where cryolite can be extracted. He intends to make the money from the ‘costs and profitability study’ he will undertake which, as he tells his uncle:

“…you’ll have to pay me…even if the study should show that it is not an advisable investment.”

The uncle readily agrees, and, to stir things up, tells the cousins that he asked Marcos to come. So worried do they become that they offer to buy his share of the inheritance (without being sure he even has one) and, when that doesn’t work, sign an agreement that they will split the inheritance equally, whatever they get.

To complicate things further, Marcos becomes involved with Amalia’s daughter, Lucero, when he finds her in his room and she gives him “the most perfect kiss, technically speaking, that I had ever had in my life.” He soon doubts whether her apparent attraction can be trusted:

“A little later, when I was putting on my shirt, I noticed that the sixty-one pesos and the copy of the contract that were in the pocket had changed places.”

Not only does this not stop him pursuing her, but when he fails at the first attempt, he turns to Amalia instead:

“…it was an irresistible impulse. I was inside Amalia’s room before I realised it. What a different reception that was!”

The con, however, seems to be working, until the unexpected arrival of Marcos’ wife, and the death of Ramon soon after. Ibarguengoitia’s handling of the plot is masterful, but his stroke of genius to hand the narrative over at this point to a new narrator, Don Pepe. This gives us a different perspective on the first half of the novel – we realise that, for all his enthusiasm, Ramon did not trust Marcos, assuming that he would disappear with the thousand pesos he had given him and the Land Rover he borrowed:

“Doesn’t that story Marcos told us about the beryllium mine sound like hokum to you?”

Don Pepe then drives the narrative forward as he hunts of Marcos after Ramon’s death. The change in perspective works brilliantly, refreshing the narrative when it seems to have reached one conclusion, until we reach another. Marcos is charged with ‘two crimes’ – the original crime of ‘terrorism’ which forces him to go on the run, and his uncle’s murder – but, of course, although two crimes are indeed committed in the novel, these are quite different, and the last one occurs unexpectedly in the final pages. Two Crimes is a thoroughly entertaining novel from a master story-teller, with both its tension and humour working as well today as they did forty years ago.

Battles in the Desert

July 14, 2022

Although Jose Emilio Pacheco was perhaps primarily a poet, Battles in the Desert is the work for which he is likely to be remembered. As Fernanda Melchor points out in her afterword to this revised translation by Katherine Silver, “for decades Battles in the Desert has been one of the most widely read novels in Mexico.” What we remember is also central to the story itself, which begins:

“I remember – I don’t remember: what year was that?”

Pacheco goes on to set the scene in a Mexico which no longer exists; “the first post-war cars were rolling through the streets”; “it was the year of polio”; pictures of President Miguel Alimán are ubiquitous (“Public adulation, incessant private abuse.”) The disappearance of this world is already evident as Mexico ‘modernises’, becoming Americanised in its language and diet – “Coca-Cola was burying our aguas frescas.” (This impacts on the narrator, Carlos, more directly as his father’s soap factory suffers from the competition of American brands). Even in the playground the wider world is visible:

“When we played, we divided ourselves into two camps: Arabs and Jews.”

The “battles in the desert” are the battles which take place there, “a reddish yard of brick and volcanic rock,” but also suggest the general violence of Mexico (his parents’ “childhood, adolescence and youth had been spent against a constant backdrop of battles and executions”) and the world beyond. Pacheco also gives us a child’s eye view of the inequalities which exist. A visit to one classmate, Harry, sees the parents discuss Carlos in English and Harry, the next day, advise him to learn how to use his cutlery; at the other extreme he finds “a neighbourhood built out of scrap lumber” and his fellow student, Rosales, sleeping on the floor as his mother’s new boyfriend has kicked him out of the only bedroom.

This detailed scene setting, in what is a short novel, might seem out of place as the story itself is not one of political awakening, but unrequited love. However, in recreating the time and place, Pacheco is emphasising the importance of memory which combines a number of strands to create an impression. He also no doubt creates, among many readers, a certain amount of nostalgia which mimics the feeling of unrequited love, and suggests that Carlos’ longing is, in part, for a simpler past – simpler, that is, from his child’s perspective. There is also a moral simplicity to his life, fostered by his father. His friendship with Jim, whose mother he will fall in love with, begins when he defends him from bullying, but even here his father will remind him not to use ‘indio’ as an insult:

“My father said that in Mexico we are all Indians, even if don’t want to know it or admit it. If the Indians weren’t, poor nobody would use that word as an insult.”

According to Jim, his father is an important man whose picture appears in the papers. This puzzles Carlos – why does Jim not go to a better school? live in a better neighbourhood? – until he is told that Jim’s mother, Mariana, is the man’s mistress, and, in fact, he may not be the father anyway. All agree, however, that she is “very young and very beautiful’” as Carlos discovers for himself when he visits Jim. Carlos identifies the visit as a turning point in his life – for example, hearing a bolero immediately afterwards, he understands the longing in the words. He makes a conscious decision to preserve the memory:

“I’m going to hold onto the moment of this memory because everything that now exists will never be the same again.”

Of course, he also understands that, at his age, “the only thing anybody can do is fall in love secretly, silently… Fall in love knowing that all is lost and that there is no hope.” Carlos accepts from the beginning that his love for Mariana cannot be returned, but at the same time he insists his feelings are genuine. It is this painful tension which gives the novel its poignancy. When he eventually decides he must tell her how he feels, skipping school to do, so she treats him kindly, again focusing on memory:

“Think of this as something amusing, Carlos, something you’ll be able to remember with a smile when you grow up, not with hard feelings.”

The reaction of the adults around him when they discover this visit are less understanding.

Appropriately, the novel ends with an older Carlos remembering, and a final scene which preserves the memory for him but ensures it remains untouched by the present. Battles in the Desert is a perfectly formed novella of impossible love that will touch most readers’ hearts.

Even the Darkest Night

July 11, 2022

Javier Cercas quickly leaves the reader in no doubt that his latest novel, Even the Darkest Night (originally Terra Alta – literally ‘high land’ – a title that was temporarily attached to its UK publication) is a crime novel. “Two dead at the Adell country house,” is our third sentence, preceded only by the briefest of introductions to our central character, Melchor. Within a page however, we know he is married with a daughter, has only lived in Terra Alta for four years, and has a love of Les Miserables – the novel not the musical. And, in reference to the murders, according to his superior, Blai:

“What a shitstorm this is going to be.”

As befits a writer of Cercas’ standing, however, he knows when to slow the pace, and the murder scene itself is described in detail. The Adells, husband and wife, owners of the town’s largest business, have not simply been killed but extensively tortured beforehand:

“Two bloody masses of red and violet flesh face each other on a sofa and armchair soaked in a lumpy liquid – a mixture of blood, entrails, cartilage and skin – which has spattered the walls, the floor, and even as far as the fireplace.”

In every other way the murders (there are three as the live-in maid has also been killed) seem professional – the security system has been switched off in advance, and the only trace of the killers is a tyre print, but the make (Continental) is too common for this to be useful. This raises the suspicion that they were tortured in order extract information, but what that might be no-one can guess. The murders themselves are unusual in a town were, when he arrived, Melchor was told, “nothing ever happens.”

The novel, however, is more than the story of the crime; it is also Melchor’s story, and that is where Cercas has created an interesting and unusual hero. In the second chapter we go back to Melchor’s birth:

“His mother’s name was Rosario and she was a prostitute.”

Unsurprisingly, Melchor’s life does not go smoothly. At fourteen he is expelled from school, and by fifteen he is in front of a Juvenile Court. Cercas teases us with the opportunities Melchor has to turn over a new leaf – after all we know he is now a policeman – for example, when the judge decides to give him a second chance, or his mother tells him, “if you’re going to carry on living the way you were living before, I don’t want you in this house.” On each occasion, however, he goes deeper into the world of crime instead. Eventually he ends up in prison and it is there, after the shock of his mother’s violent death, that he begins to educate himself. Via a French prisoner, he encounters Les Miserables, identifying with Jean Valjean, but coming to admire Javert:

“But most of all he thought of Javert, of Javert’s hallucinatory rectitude, of Javert’s integrity and his scorn for evil, of Javert’s sense of justice, and Javert would never allow his mother’s murderer to go unpunished.”

This is the type of policeman Melchor will become, one who is relentless in his pursuit of justice, a quality which does not always sit easily with the practicalities of policing. We see this first in his determination to solve his mother’s murder, in particular his search for the prostitute who was with her when she met her final clients. This, of course, he does secretly, outside of his new role as a police officer. We also learn that he routinely beats up anyone he learns abuses women: although he is now on the other side of the law, he still retains a dark side. This is seen in the incident that leads to his posting to Terra Alta where he shoots four terrorists dead. He is regarded as a hero, but it is thought best he lie low for a while and so, for a second time, he must deny his past. To counter- balance this, Cercas gives him a happy family life, with a wife and young daughter.

The novel proceeds with a chapter set in the present followed by one telling the story of Melchor’s past – his arrival in Terra Alta, how he met his wife. Just as he did with the novel’s dramatic opening, Cercas surprises us again at the beginning of it’s second part when the case is closed unsolved. Of course, we know by now that Melchor will have difficulty accepting this. Cercas also returns to the subject that made his name, telling us of the quiet town:

“He did know that eighty years earlier, towards the end of the Civil War, it had been the site of the bloodiest battle in the history of Spain.”

The suggestion is that such violence can occur anywhere, and can have repercussions.

In the end, the solution to the mystery is satisfying, although it does rely on an unsolicited confession delivered personally to Melchor. It is the character’s backstory and the thematic resonance of Les Miserables (both, admittedly, bringing a certain amount of implausibility in their wake) that lift the novel beyond the ordinary thriller. I suspect it will not be the last we see of Terra Alta.

Of Saints and Miracles

July 7, 2022

Of Saints and Miracles, the first novel by Manuel Astur to be translated into English (by Claire Wadie), begins with a killing: with one punch, Marcelino kills his brother, Manuel. Marcelino is provoked, not only by the contempt with which Manuel addresses him (“All right you fucking retard, just scribble down four of your shitty letters and job done”), but by the fact that Manual is demanding his written consent to sell the farm they have inherited from their parents where Marcelino still lives and works. Marcelino’s simple-mindedness is demonstrated when he fails to understand at first his brother is dead – assuming that, when his car is missing next morning, he has returned to the house, and, on later finding numerous tyre tracks there, that he has retuned with friends looking for revenge. When he is told the police are looking for him (fearing he may be injured) he goes on the run.

First, he goes to the “Old World” – an abandoned village where his mother came from. His present life on the run is interspersed with stories of his past – for example, the moment when he kills his brother is juxtaposed with a scene where they play together as children:

“He loved that little boy more than anything in the whole world.”

In this way, Of Saints and Miracles is a novel of stories – “We have the voice and we have the time,” the narrator tells us. The idea of abandoned villages is introduced not at Marcelino’s arrival but in the story of Sofia, the first to seemingly interrupt the main narrative, as she walks seven hours each year to return to the village where she was born, “the one remaining inhabitant having died thirty years ago.” (These feel very much like the villages we find in Jean Giono’s early novels). Far from an interruption, her story is simply one of many, past and present, which will take their place in the narrative. The past is of particular significance:

“The past is a village folklore, a fairy-tale rewritten every day to get us through the winter, and to help us imagine a vast world beyond the valley.”

One of the things which marks Marcelino out as different is that he lives in the present – “as if on a floating island” – the stories of his childhood revealed by the narrator rather than presented as his memories:

“Like all children, Lino was reborn with every new day.”

The memories of his childhood exist instinctively rather than intellectually, in, for example, his fear of the dark:

“The night was evil, the night was his mother crying… His father carried the night in his clenched fist.”

Living in the present, Marcelino – or so the narrator speculates – exists outside of time. When he takes refuge in the wreck of an abandoned car, he imagines him as the “sole survivor” of our world:

“Time has ceased to exist, or been reborn.”

As if to emphasis this, he is visited by his dead mother. The longer he remains on the run, out of sight the more he becomes a ’story’ rather than a person. When the novel’s third section, or ‘Song’, begins with “the strangest looking pilgrim they’d ever seen… long dirty hair merging into the dirty beard” we would be forgiven for thinking this might be Marcelino, but it is another moment from his childhood when a man comes to his door describing himself not as a beggar but a storyteller:

“He said that stories were more important than anything, and that they had to be protected to prevent evil spirits from sucking the life from the earth.”

Towards the novel’s end, Marcelino begins to encounter people and finds only kindness. When a hunter gives him his coat he realises, “It was the first time in his entire life that anyone except his mother had given him a present.” Marcelino’s time in hiding feels more like a religious retreat than the act of a dangerous fugitive. The novel itself, as the title suggests, has something spiritual about it, though perhaps not quite religious despite references to Judas and hanging, and a Biblical plague of maggots. The way in which it takes the plotline of a thriller and applies the pace of a wandering stream forces the reader to look at life differently, from moment to moment, story to story:

“Everything is happening at this moment and it’s all of equal importance, the only difference being who is telling the story and why. Everything is a miracle.”

Stranger to the Moon

July 4, 2022

Evelio Rosero is best-known in English for his 2009 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize winning novel The Armies, his first to be translated (by Anne McLean, who has been involved in all subsequent translations of his work). It was followed by Good Offices (2011) and Feast of the Innocents (2015), in which Anne was joined in translation by Anna Milsom, both novels incorporating elements of the surreal, but with a clear grounding in realism. Stranger to the Moon, now with Victor Meadowcroft as co-translator, is entirely allegory, a short novel where, in Rosero’s words “the nightmare took control of everything,” written in the late 1980s when Rosero returned to Colombia from Europe:

“I came back to Colombia, and after less than a week in Bogotá I fell in love and went to live in Chía, in the Cerca de Piedra district, among cows and chickens. The little brick house seemed right out of a fairy tale, but also out of nightmares. I stayed there six years, and I wrote Señor que no conoce la luna, because before I lived in Chía I’d never really seen the moon, as simple as that, I didn’t get to know the moon in Paris or in Barcelona.”

Stranger to the Moon wastes no time in making the reader sit up and take notice:

“It’s true that this house is enormous, but there are just too many of us. In order for us all to fit, there must always be one, at least, inside the wardrobe.”

The narrator, however, sees the advantages of inhabiting the wardrobe, not least the ability to “see without being seen,” having grown his nails sharp enough to bore a hole to look through. In this way we are introduced to the world of the Naked who fill the house, only rarely venturing outside among the clothed, a striking allegory for the divide between the poor and the wealthy, or between any powerful group and those who live on the margins of society, expanded further when the narrator reveals their reasons for remaining indoors:

“Not because we’re terrified of going around naked, but because they themselves, those from outside, seem to be the terrified ones, and therefore do everything possible to terrify us, attacking us in all manner of ways.”

The Naked are not only insulted, humiliated and attacked but are literally tortured in the belief that this will somehow cure the Clothed. In one description of torture Rosero alludes to Christ, when the Clothed tie one of the Naked to a tree “giving him vinegar instead of water to drink, and piercing his skin from time to time with sticks smeared in toxic aloe juice.” The Clothed also visit the house for ‘parties’ – “their friendliness is hypocritical naturally” – bringing food which allows the Naked to survive:

“The most frequent visitors like to get us to fight over a plate of lentils, and they place bets.”

The only physical difference between the Naked and the Clothed is that the Naked have two sexes, and at one point the narrator speculates as to whether stories that anything they wear will burst into flames, are intended “to discourage anyone intending to put on clothes in the hope of incorporating themselves – clothed – into the world of the Clothed.”

Much of the novel’s opening establishes the world of the Naked and the Clothed, but it is also suggested that the narrator in some way different. He tells of a time when he was saved from the Clothed by a woman because of the light in his eye – “Let him go, he’s just a wandering gaze” – and it is implied he is of greater intelligence than most of the Naked:

“They were astonished I was able to speak and respond and refute.”

At times he seems as alien to the Naked as he is to the Clothed, and the novel taps into the genre of the sensitive, intelligent child trapped in poverty and gives us hope of escape, however unlikely.

Stranger to the Moon is an imagination unleashed. It exists in a world of nightmare but one which is also recognisably human. Within only few pages you will believe this world exists, and by the novel’s end you may fear you live in it.

Goodbye, Ramona

July 1, 2022

Goodbye, Ramona was Montserrat Roig’s first novel, originally published in 1972, and now translated into English by Megan Berkobian and Maria Cristina Hall (following the success of Tiago Miller’s translation of The Song of Youth which was short-listed for the Republic of Consciousness Prize). It tells the story of three generations of Catalan women, grandmother, mother and daughter, all called Ramona, at three important moments in Catalan history. It opens and closes with a scene in which the mother, Ramona Ventura, searches for her husband, Joan, after a bombing raid in Barcelona during the civil war. This is not only a pivotal moment in Catalan’s history, but in her own, as she fears Joan is dead, a death that one suspects would have dramatically changed her future – a change which her daughter, with whom she is pregnant at the time, senses may have been positive. She describes her mother as “crushed by her husband’s very presence”:

“He frightened her and she didn’t make any effort to hide it, not even from her children.”

Later the novel will go on to reveal the back story to Ventura’s marriage, which perhaps begins with her mother, Ramona Jover’s, declaration that “I’ll never marry you off.” In fact, Ventura soon falls in love, but it is with a man called Ignasi:

“When she saw him two evenings later… Mundeta came to understand all that talk about beating hearts that she’d read about in novels, that a heart could race as if intending to burst, shattering into a million little pieces.”

On the day she is searching for Joan, Ventura looks back on this time as an exception in her life – “but everyone has a summer and a fall.” The difficulty for the three women in finding and holding onto happiness is a recurrent theme in the novel, emphasised by the fact that their stories are told concurrently, in fragments, moving from one to the other. Her own mother, Jover, whose story takes place at the turn of the century, finds herself in a conventional marriage with a man she likes but does not love:

“I feel none of the ivresse [intoxication] you read about in novels.”

Whereas her daughter finds love before she is married, she does so after, when she falls in love with a student, Victor:

“They say to love is to die. I must simply die of love then.”

Interestingly, in both cases, these love affairs are kept from Ramona Claret, who represents the youngest generation. Instead, her mother frequently talks about “an entire day spent searching for your father,” and whenever her grandmother talks about her husband, Francisco, “she did so like a woman in love, and Mundeta envied her for it.” Roig is charging these women with a dishonesty that perpetuates the difficulties women have in finding, and accepting, happiness. Ironically, Ramona Claret sees herself as rebelling against the previous generations in her own relationship with Jordi. She, too, has romantic ideas about love – “She’d spent her whole life searching for her one true love…”- and she longs to:

“…be back by his side, and for them both to be thinking that nothing else mattered but their own little world, just the two of them.”

Unfortunately, she is a student at the time of political unrest – at one point the universities are closed – and Jordi is heavily involved in the movement. This could perhaps be a warning sign for her if she knew the history of her family, as both her mother and grandmother’s ‘true loves’ were also politically active:

“Mundeta noticed that they’d set off from two distinct, irreconcilable points: she found herself in a universe in decline, unimaginative, corrupted for which the only plausible ending would be, at best, the triumph of individual happiness. It was very different in Jordi’s case: he belonged to family for which the word ‘struggle’ possessed, as was tradition, an optimistic and ascending meaning.”

To some extent, this dichotomy is central to the novel, which provides us with a version of Catalan history that acknowledges the political history but is focused on the emotional impact. It also demonstrates both changes which take place in women’s lives over almost a hundred years, and the factors which remain the same. Fittingly, it’s conclusions are nuanced rather than feminist, with Jordi telling Ramona Claret that, “we’re nothing but tiny particles, countless, inexistant nearly invisible particles. We’re not the centre of the world,” and Ramona Ventura realising amid the ruins:

“The truth is I’ve been moulded out of details and miniscule events which will never add up to much of anything at all.”

Goodbye, Ramona is a thoughtful, engaging kaleidoscope of women’s lives in the 20th century, and another example of Montserrat Roig’s skill as an author which is, thankfully, now being revealed to us.