Thursday, July 22, 2010

Stone in a Landslide by Maria Barbal

Publication:   Peirene Press (2010), Paperback, 108 pages
ISBN: 9780956284013

Today I place in your cupped hands a gem of a book titled "Stone in a Landslide" by renowned Catalan writer, Maria Barbal.   The book, which was originally written in Catalan and translated into English by Laura McGoughlin and Paul Mitchell, narrates the story of a 13-year old Catalan girl, Conxa, who is sent to live with her childless aunt Tia in a different village on the Catalan Pyrenees at the beginning of the last century. 

The story is not extraordinary, in that, she traces her life at her aunt's house (her aunt and uncle are farmers and although they are comfortably off, the work is physically grueling), her first love Jaume who she later marries, her children, the onset of Spain's civil war and how they were taken prisoners for a while for Jaume's involvement with the Communist revolutionaries and finally her twilight years as a grandmother in Barcelona, hardly needed, rarely listened to.

So like I said, the story itself is not all that different or remarkable, what puts this book at the top of my reading list (and you will thank me if you place it at the top of yours too) is the narrator herself...her voice..her ability to tell a tale and to mark a passage of time with so much credibility, muted emotion, an enviable conciseness (the novel is only 126 pages) and a surprising gentleness and yet, as you read, the story and her emotions are so fiercely felt, it leaves you deeply affected. 

Also, Barbal writes the way most of us would write should we look back on our lives....she doesn't bother herself or the reader with the big events that went on around her, rather it is the little everyday events that fill her book.  When I look back on my life, I find that I have forgotten so much and the events I do remember are the small, everyday things and if  I were to recount those, I am sure I would find many who would relate to what I was saying.  And that's what Barbal does...even though she is narrating the story of a woman who lived in a different century with a completely different background from most of us, her way of telling this tale has a certain timeless quality about it which I enjoyed very much.

"Stone in a Landslide" is published by Peirene Press in the UK who do a fabulous job of publishing contemporary (translated) European Literature.  "Stone in a Landslide" was first published (in Catalan) in 1985.


Candleman said...


You always find such interesting books to read and review. This one really appeals to me. Thanks for the tip.

Lotus Reads said...

Always a pleasure Candleman and thank you for stopping by. I hope you will enjoy the read!

Susan A said...

A thoughtful & insightful review, Angie, complete with crystal-clear impressions!
You should be pleased with your post. :-)

Lotus Reads said...

Suse, thank you so much! Your comment makes me very happy!

Sai said...

Such a thoughtful review, Angie. I have to add this to my TBR list.

We tend to dismiss off certain events in our life as "unimportant." I think recollecting them and weaving them into the narrative is what constitutes remarkable story telling.

Lotus Reads said...

That's exactly it Sai!!! Too many memoirists tend to focus on big events, when it's really the little things that make for enjoyable reading and also provide common points of reference in the reader!

Sanjay said...

Thank you Lotus for a wonderful review. I guess you were really impressed by this book since it is highly recommended by you.
Considering it's concise length and the time frames it covers, I can only imagine how wondefully written it must be, not to forget that is translates well too?
Truly intrigued by this one.
Would you perhaps be able to provide a small teaser of an everyday event that caught your attention in this book?
Anything particular about the writing style? Did the translators have any comments about this process? Were they worried about losing something in this? Was the author?