cover image The Last Days of Terranova

The Last Days of Terranova

Manuel Rivas, trans. from the Galician by Jacob Rogers. Archipelago, $20 trade paper (312p) ISBN 978-1-953861-32-0

Rivas (The Carpenter’s Pencil) offers a tender requiem for a venerable Spanish bookstore. In 2014, Terranova proprietor Vincenzo Fontana, facing eviction and the liquidation of his shop’s stock, looks back over his long life, recalling his internment as a child in an iron lung due to polio; his salad days as a pill-popping, Bowie-worshipping rocker and antifascist agitator in the 1970s under Franco; the store’s founding by his writer father, Amaro, who takes the pseudonym Polytropos from Homer’s Odyssey; and the tall tales of his mercurial Uncle Eliseo. Especially poignant is his account of dissident girl Garua, who takes refuge in the store from the agents of the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance. Literary and political history regularly intertwine: as dictatorships and revolutions come and go, the store is raided by secret police amid discussions of Andre Breton and walk-ons by the likes of Jorge Luis Borges. Terranova comes to encapsulate histories both personal and national, a vantage point to glimpse the melancholy and ecstasy of the characters and their culture. As Rivas narrates, “we are what we read. But it could just as easily be said that we are what we don’t read.” This hits the spot, both as a love letter to and postmortem of the world of ideas. (Oct.)