In the Wilderness

Manuel Rivas, Author , trans. from the Galician by Jonathan Dunne. Overlook $23.95 (170p) ISBN 978-1-58567-467-1

Spain's legendary past returns to critique its prosaic present in this haunting novel. Journalist and novelist Rivas (The Carpenter's Pencil ) tells an episodic tale about the inhabitants of Arán, a Galician village fading into contemporary amnesia. The elliptical story revolves around an unhappy housewife, her callous, mercenary husband, her mute brother—a latter-day knight errant who listens to his Walkman as he gallops through the countryside on horseback—and an elderly noblewoman, Misia, repository of the village's cultural memory and her own bittersweet reminiscences of loves lost. Observing and commenting on their travails are the souls of dead villagers who have returned as animals, including a mouse who used to be the village priest, now stalked by a cat who is the embodiment of the erstwhile village anarchist, and a crow who presides over, and occasionally intervenes in, events on behalf of the ancient king of Galicia. Rivas's delicate, restrained magical realism, limpidly translated, deploys Galician folklore to lend a mythic resonance to Spain's painful passage from rural life to urban modernity. The result is a poignant, lyrical meditation on the disenchantments of history. (July)

Reviewed on: 05/23/2005
Release date: 07/01/2005
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