cover image The Wrong Blood

The Wrong Blood

Manuel de Lope, trans. from the Spanish by John Cullen, Other Press, $14.95 paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-59051-309-5

This frustrating Spanish Civil War saga, the author's first to appear in English, has neither the pulse nor the plot to sustain itself over the course of its slow, laborious, and anticlimactic denouement. Doctor Félix Castro, a lonely, endearing cripple, has been observing his neighbors for years and eagerly strikes up a conversation when a young lawyer, Miguel Goitia, comes to stay in the villa of Las Cruces, which his grandmother has mysteriously bequeathed to her miserly maid, María Antonia. Premonitions, superstitions, and otherworldly manifestations guide or thwart the characters on their respective quests, while their profound motivations remain cryptic. The novel, which sashays between stilted exchanges involving Doctor Castro and the bland Goitia, and sometimes harried wartime recollections, manages some highly evocative descriptions of the Basque countryside and a number of astute characterizations. Unfortunately, the narrative suffers from a ceaseless supply of ponderous asides and a cumbersome translation that prefers a rigid fidelity to the original text over a smooth reading experience. (Sept.)