When I Sing, Mountains Dance

Irene Solà, trans. from the Catalan by Mara Faye Lethem. Graywolf, $16 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-64445-080-2

Solà’s vivid and magical tale, winner of the European Union Prize, brings to life a small Pyrenees village. The story begins when a farmer is killed by a lightning strike during a storm, leaving his wife, Sió, a widowed mother to a daughter, Mia, and a two-month-old son, Hilari. When Mia grows up, she falls in love with Jaume, the son of “Giants,” who are stigmatized for their size as well as lack of education and rough manner. After Jaume accidentally kills Hilari in a hunting accident, he’s jailed while he awaits his trial for murder, and Mia is left alone to live her life in the mountains with her dog. Woven throughout are the voices of a roe deer, witches, a bear (“tremble in fear, men who killed us”), and Mia’s dog. The mountains are heard from as well, alongside geological sketches, creating a multilayered and lush array of perspectives (“My slumber is so deep that it slips beneath the seas,” says a mountain). In language at turns poetic and stark, Solà offers a fresh and mythic work that fully reckons with the beauty and savagery of a landscape. It’s a fine achievement. Agent: Paula Canal, Indent Literary. (Mar.)
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