Springs and Autumns

Baltasar Porcel, Author, John L. Getman, Translator
Baltasar Porcel, Author, John L. Getman, Translator University of Arkansas Press $24.95 (202p) ISBN 978-1-55728-609-3
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Catalan writer Porcel, now in his mid-60s and living in Barcelona, was born and raised on Majorca. The fictional town of Orlandis, at the westernmost end of that island, serves as the setting for this maze of tales, which--for want of a more precise term--may be called a novel. The narrative focuses on the present-day Taltavull family as its members gather at the clan's ancient island villa for a Christmas celebration. No single story is told. Rather, Porcel uses the occasion to dip into various Taltavull personal histories. What the author sacrifices in plot he regains in historical richness and depth, invoking time and history, the twin themes of his book. The narrative's governing emblems are the family's ancient, rambling and none-too-comfortable home--Taltavull Hall--and the erstwhile family business: alarm clocks. The members of the younger generation are introduced, but lacking histories, their stories are little more than brief character sketches. The adults are allotted longer accounts of family, commercial and erotic life that merge seamlessly with larger but understated themes of Catalan political and military history, especially Spanish Civil War history. Porcel scrupulously avoids nostalgia and idealization, the chief pitfalls of this genre. Getman's translation, based on Porcel's Catalan and Spanish versions, is engaging and often poetic. The reader is left with a vision of a clan that is not exactly attractive, ""tied as if in a nightmare to the heritage of the place, the valley, the dead weight of the past."" But the Taltavulls are admirable for their tenacity--rather like some hardy, weather-worn tree that survives despite the rocky soil and hostile climate in which it is rooted. (June)
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