Uncertain Glory

Joan Sales, trans. from the Catalan by Peter Bush. New York Review Books, $18.95 trade paper (464p) ISBN 978-168137-180-1
A Catalan novel banned in Franco’s Spain when it was first published in 1956, this enthralling work—translated into English for the first time—focuses on four young Catalonians struggling with faith and faithfulness during the Spanish Civil War. The narrative includes two epistolary sections set in 1937, as well as a recollection of the events 20 years later. The first part comprises letters from Lluis, a romantic, somewhat callous fighter in an anarchist brigade who woos the scheming widow of an executed nobleman while ignoring the woman he left behind, Trini, the mother of his child. Trini, in turn, unburdens herself in a series of letters to the couple’s mutual friend Soleràs, an eccentric and eminently quotable intellectual who “steal[s] from soldiers on the front line to give to whores on the rearguard.” The third narrator is Cruells (whose section is the only non-epistolary one), a young medical adjutant with dreams of becoming a priest. Troubled yet fascinated by Soleràs’s mesmerizing, blasphemous philosophizing, he develops a fraught relationship with Trini as well. These subtly drawn love triangles emerge against the backdrop of a country divided, in an era that “has preferred to slash the veils that cover birth and death, the obscene and the macabre.” Apparitions, lurid dreams, and disinterred mummies litter the novel, lending it a hallucinatory quality that pairs perfectly with the darkly comic depictions of wartime absurdity. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/14/2017
Release date: 10/10/2017
Hardcover - 899 pages - 978-0-9648109-1-4
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-85705-151-6
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-85705-153-0
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