cover image The Valley of the Fallen

The Valley of the Fallen

Carlos Rojas, trans. from the Spanish by Edith Grossman. Yale Univ., $26 (312p) ISBN 978-0-300-21796-4

Originally published in 1978, this challenging work begins with a fictional account of the relationship between the artist Francisco de Goya and the self-indulgent royal family of Carlos IV (Charles IV of Spain). Then the narrative jumps through time to just before the fall of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, picking up the story of a Goya biographer named Sandro Vasari. The troubled Vasari dreamily channels the words and actions of earlier chapters, in touch with Goya as he witnesses the royal collusion of his day and conveying a cautionary message for a Spain emerging from decades of fascism. Rojas uses lengthy descriptions of Goya’s incisive portraits, revealing “the truth of man, inhabited by monsters,” in his own portrayal of his characters, which will likely come alive for those with background knowledge. For those who cannot distinguish between Maria Luisa, Maria Teresa, and Maria Josefa, or don’t know that Azaña was the last president of the Second Republic, this will be rougher going. Rojas uses the novel to present his philosophy concerning the futility of any political system, left or right. “In the end, history is summarized in simplifications... to amuse the mad gods who are dreaming us.” To absorb this lesson, most readers in English will need supplemental resources.[em] (Mar.) [/em]