THE POET'S WEDDING
Antonio Skarmeta, , trans. from the Spanish by Susan G. Rascón. . Welcome Rain, $26.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-1-56649-249-2
The citizens of the fictional Adriatic island of Gema prepare for a wedding and an invasion in this tragicomic romance. Wealthy Austrian businessman Jerónimo Franck, dubbed "the Poet" by his father, has purchased a dilapidated old department store and proposed to Alia Emar, the most beautiful girl on the island, much to the consternation of hot-blooded, blue-eyed Esteban Coppeta. Many residents believe the union is doomed to failure, since the young bride of the store's previous owner died on their wedding night under gruesome circumstances 20 years earlier. The first whiffs of World War I are in the air, and when the Austrian military arrives in Gema to recruit soldiers, Esteban's brother Reino organizes a small but bloody uprising. Their victory is short-lived, though, and soon the Austrian fleet bears down on the tiny island to take vengeance; even the pope tries to intercede, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Alia begins to doubt her decision: will the wedding happen as planned, or will she turn to Esteban? The supporting cast includes Pavlovic, an idealistic though somewhat devious journalist; Paula, Jerónimo's meddling sister, who tries to keep him from marrying below his class; and Torrentes, an eccentric inventor. The impoverished island comes alive with old superstitions, an impossibly large church bell and a risqué dance called the turumba. Although much of the novel's momentum is lost after the climactic wedding scene, Skármeta serves up a delightfully odd mix of political satire and romance.
Reviewed on: 11/25/2002