cover image Private Life

Private Life

Josep Maria de Sagarra, trans. from the Catalan by Mary Ann Newman. Archipelago (Random, dist.), $18 trade paper (488p) ISBN 978-0-914671-26-8

Sagarra’s novel, a scandal upon its original publication in 1932, is a long account of the decadent fall of Barcelona’s aristocracy under the weight of the new wealth and power of the 1920s and early 1930s. The focus is the dynasty of Frederic de Lloberola, the last patriarch of a decayed aristocratic family that is slowly descending into obscurity and poverty. Frederic is “like all the Lloberolas... weak and cowardly”: he becomes more and more indebted and tries to ignore his troubles through passionless affairs, decadence, and maintaining an inflated, corrupt pride. Yet Frederic and the other Lloberolas, including his brother, Guillem de Lloberola, and children Maria Lluïsa and Ferran, are only representatives of the moldering nobility in general. Through a series of debaucheries, the elite of Barcelona are usurped by history and their own vices. No matter what positive turns occur in their lives—whether it is Guillem falling into a fortune, or Frederic being relieved of a debt—the Lloberolas and the nobility hurtle irrevocably toward inconsequence. As their eminence and fortunes vanish before their eyes, the Lloberolas and old aristocrats refuse to change and instead indulge themselves on their way to ruin. At times slow and monotonous, at others funny and ridiculous, de Sagarra paints a meticulous portrait of the dawn of modernity in Catalonia. (Sept.)