cover image Ordesa


Manuel Vilas, trans. from the Spanish by Andrea Rosenberg. Riverhead, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-08404-5

Ordesa, a park deep in the Pyrenees, looms over the psyche of Spanish writer Vilas’s unnamed narrator in this vibrant English-language debut. The site of the narrator’s childhood vacations, Ordesa is also home to Monte Perdido—“the lost mountain”—a symbol for the loss of his larger-than-life father, who died 10 years earlier, when the narrator was 43. Now living alone in Barcelona, the narrator, whose mother died a year before, is divorced from his wife and estranged from his children, and clings to what he can: an unremarkable career as a writer, tenuous sobriety after years of heavy drinking, and vivid memories of his parents. Though crackling with life, his thoughts are morbid and dominated by a pervasive sense of loss, as he reflects on the erosion of bodies and familial bonds, the material and spiritual decline of the Spanish middle class, and even the loss of memory itself: “My memory constructs a catastrophic vision of the world,” he narrates midway through the novel. Despite lacking a central arc, the novel hums with magnetic and lively scenes. This is an indelible portrait of a man facing the costs of a life dedicated to remembrance. (Dec.)