Individual works of fiction ( Fortunata and Jacinta; Torquemada by Galdos, Spain's master of the 19th century novel, have recently begun to appear in English translations. Galdos, whom historians class with Cervantes, shows a flair for metafiction by creating his ""nonexistent'' narrator, Manso, out of scorched paper and a drop of ink. Manso's story, which also documents Madrid society and politics, is about the orphan Irene, who earns her living as a governess. Rescued from the adulterous clutches of her employer, Irene marries Manuel, a butcher's son whose charm and eloquence propel him to political heights. The modernist Galdos also explores the flip side of his sentimental plot, allowing the literary figment Manso to contemplate a less idealized, more toughminded Irene. Moreover, considering what Irene's fate might have been, the novel contains an unforgettable scene of the wetnurse marketplace, where mobs of unmarried mothers are bared, pinched and medically examined like cows as they clamor for jobs. One of the smaller Galdosian novels, Our Friend Manso is nonetheless a welcome event. (February)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1987 Release date: 03/01/1987 Genre: Fiction
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