cover image The Treasure of the Spanish Civil War

The Treasure of the Spanish Civil War

Serge Pey, trans. from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith. Archipelago, $18 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-939810-54-0

Pey’s haunting, inspired collection (after Flamenco) captures the lives of refugees fleeing the Spanish Civil War. Set mostly in France, where fleeing Spanish anarchists and their families were put in internment camps by the French government, the stories feature characters who demonstrate resilience and resistance. In the harrowing “The Piece of Wood,” a refugee camp director tortures children for information and punishes prisoners by locking them in oil drums, which “often became coffins.” Friends Floridor and Chucho of “Morse Code” tap out chess moves to one another on the pipes in their cells, “a kind of tom-tom of hope from invisible and occult constellations.” In “The Movies,” a refugee family is “the poorest of the poor,” but the children “learn to read French” by watching subtitled American movies projected outdoors. And in the standout title story, set in 1958 Toulouse, exiles and their families are brought together in celebration by a quixotic hunt for buried gold. Throughout this remarkable collection, Pey’s startling and memorable images have a poetic logic, building complexity and nuance into the characters’ cries for freedom. This masterful collection stands with the best fiction about war refugees. (Mar.)