Dec 30, 2010

THE WRONG BLOOD by Manuel de Lope

from the New York Times
This absorbing novel — the first from the distinguished Spanish author to be translated into English — is full of mild sensations. Mild humor (bacalao soaked for dinner in the toilet tank) gives way to mild horror (a woman bends over another’s baby with “the posture of certain all-consuming insects”), which in turn yields to mild philosophizing (on the “admiration that denizens of the rural world feel for folding things”). At times, the mildness turns to provocation, as when the main character, a simple yet baffling woman named María Antonia Etxarri, watches a troop of soldiers and has “a feeling that one of those soldiers, if not more than one, was going to rape her.” The placidity with which she faces this prospect is galvanic. But de Lope’s languid sentences, artfully translated by John Cullen, continue to unfurl, and you find yourself sinking back into the narrative as if it were quicksand.

On the face of it, the story, which begins just before the Spanish Civil War, is a straightforward one. María Antonia is indeed raped — by a sergeant marking his first wedding anniversary far from his wife. Decades later, she has inherited the estate of Las Cruces from her employer, Isabel Cruces. Enter Miguel Goitia, Isabel’s grandson, who is training to become a notarial lawyer and has chosen Las Cruces as a quiet place to study. There is some ineffable bond linking these three characters, but no one asks questions, and no one provides answers unbidden. READ MORE....

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