cover image In the Night of Time

In the Night of Time

Antonio Muñoz Molina, trans. from the Spanish by Edith Grossman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30 (656p) ISBN 978-0-547-54784-8

A War and Peace for the Spanish Civil War, this classically sweeping novel from Molina (A Manuscript of Ashes) follows a large cast of characters, intermingling real and fictional figures, through times of both peaceful routine and grotesque violence. Molina begins with Spanish architect Ignacio Abel’s escape from a besieged Madrid in 1936, showing how his fragmented recollections of pre-Civil War Spain bleed into his present circumstances. Ignacio, who rose from a working-class background to a brilliant career, has always been skeptical of utopian ideals. The trappings of Spanish culture—the bull fight, Catholicism, the “picturesque backwardness” of the poor—strike him as equally foolish. By middle age, he finds himself in a loveless marriage and a stultifying, bourgeois life. When Ignacio meets Judith Biely, a young American whose idealism contrasts with his pragmatism, he falls into an affair that feels like it will last forever. But of course, as with architecture, “nothing occurs in an abstract time or a blank space”; the outside world and the couple’s own differing worldviews pull them apart. Molina offers insight into the individual’s plight in an incomprehensible and uncontrollable world, but some careful editing might have improved this long read’s pacing without losing its impressive effect. (Dec.)