cover image The Right Intention

The Right Intention

Andrés Barba, trans. from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman. Transit (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (302p) ISBN 978-1-945492-06-8

The four novellas in Barba’s wonderful and intense new collection (following Such Small Hands) share a melancholy sensibility and a yearning, born of persistent loneliness. In “Nocturne,” a 56-year-old man answers a provocative personal ad—“I’m so alone. Roberto.”—and in short order is surprised to find himself in an intimate relationship with a much younger man. It’s something he never imagined could happen, both less and more than he wants. In “Debilitation,” the seemingly aloof Sara descends into anorexia and mental illness, observing her life as much as living it. The narrative has a cool economy that chills with its disaffected illusion of control. In “Marathon,” a runner jeopardizes his relationship with his new wife because of his obsession with an upcoming race. Cracks appear almost immediately and widen as his training intensifies. The involvement of the runner’s benevolent new friend Ernesto complicates things even more. In “Descent,” the delicate balance among a group of siblings, and among their own immediate families, is progressively shifted when elderly Mama suffers a fall, breaking her hip in two places. As Mama incrementally edges towards death, each interaction changes larger family affinities. Barba’s focus on a diverse cast of characters (gay and straight, women and men, old and young) in each novella gives the collection a capacious feel, memorably capturing the many, varied subtleties of human dynamics. (Mar.)