"A magnificent novel, a profound and inspiring text that resolves itself with the apparent simplicity that only comes with technical mastery."—Pablo Martínez Zarracina, El Correo Español
"A beautiful novel that takes us into the world of conflicting points of view, of ethics and aesthetics, of moral turpitude in politics . . . the unmistakable and diaphanous echo of a great story that makes no concession to the gallery."—Á. M. Salazar, Deia
"One of those books that stays in your memory for a long time after reading."—Ramón Jiménez, La Opinión de Murcia
When Felipe Díaz Carrión loses his job he eventually emigrates with his family to the Spanish Basque country in search of a new opportunity. Regarded as foreigners in a region affected by political violence and separatism, he suffers his son and his wife's detachment and rejection in their struggle for integration. A masterfully written, profound, inspiring fable on values and identity.
J.Á. González Sainz is a Spanish fiction writer and translator and co-founder of the Centro Internacional Antonio Machado, a Spanish language learning center for foreign students based in Soria, his hometown in Spain. He won the Premio de las Letras de Castilla y León in 2006, a prestigious Spanish literary fiction award.
Harold Augenbraum is an American writer, editor, and translator living in New York. He is currently executive director of the National Book Foundation, and former vice chair of the New York Council for the Humanities.
Cecilia Ross is an American translator and editor who lives in Riga.
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About the Author
Harold Augenbraum (New York, 1953) is an American writer, editor, and translator. He is currently Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, and former vice chair of the New York Council for the Humanities. For fifteen years he was Director of The Mercantile Library of New York (now the Center for Fiction), where he established the Center for World Literature, the New York Festival of Mystery, the Clifton Fadiman Medal, and the Proust Society of America. He is on the advisory board of the literary magazine "The Common", based at Amherst College.
Read an Excerpt
It was the first day he’d gone back to what some people said he probably should never have stopped doing in the first place; the first day that, drawn by the force of something that had held him in thrall for so long, he’d gone back to leaping out of bed in the still small darkness and had made himself a tall black coffeeby himselfwith his thick slices of bread and honey, the first day that the light of dawn, like so many times before, gave him the impression it would again light up the same things that dusk had left confused and spent and so, so tired, that this is the way it would be forever, and he’d gone back to throwing over his shoulder his worn jacket and his old satchel from twenty years ago, and headed toward the river’s silence and working in the field.
He was relieved when he realized that the road was the same as it had always been. They hadn’t re-done anything yet or built anything in the surroundings, and when he walked on that road, walking as if in point of fact the road went through him, it infused in him a strange calm and a strange feeling of liberation. That’s what’s permanent, he said to himself, what will always be the same no matter how many things change, as his father used to say, or as people said his father used to say, that’s what frees you the most. Things that remain the same speak to you, he used to say. Knowing how to is something else.
But when he got to the field it had gone to seed, had been abandoned, cast aside by the hand of God, he said to himself. Blackberry bushes blocked the path that went down to the toolshed and made getting in difficult. The property markers had strayed out of place, and the river seemed to have eaten into a part of the property. Clumps of weeds had taken up residence everywhere and seemed to have divvied up the entire domain with the severe dryness of the earth, paradoxically, since they were at the very banks of the river.
The hand of God, cast aside by the hand of God, he repeated several times, deep down inside, perhaps thinking about something more than that piece of land as he gripped the sickle and dug with the hoe to clear the path and get through the doorway, to re-situate the property markers and little by little to begin to bring order to the land. But why would you say the hand of God, when it was abandoned by our hand, which had let it go to seed, that cultivated it and improved it and made things grow and also made it worse and destroyed it and made a mess of it? he asked himself. Maybe it’s His hand that puts the hoe in our hands to re-situate the property markers or make the soil produce, so maybe it’s also His hand that sometimes gives us a hoe, and sometimes not a hoe or a shovel or a rake but on the contraryand only He knows whyit’s a gun. And if one hand puts something in another hand, God’s hand putting something in our hand, do God’s eyes put hate and rancor and stubbornness in our eyes, as well?
Curiously, the way the afternoon was unfolding was the same way it had been twenty years ago, the same way it had been the very day he stopped his daily journeys on the road, and it wouldn’t be exaggerated to say he had walked the for as long as he could remember; the weather had suddenly gotten stormy. The sky had been impeccably blue, clear as you could ever imagine, just like that other day when a landscape of cottony clouds had given way to a threatening bank of clouds. So he hurried and finished collecting everything, stuck the key in the shack’s old wooden door that weather and lack of care had turned completely gray, and without missing a beat, even as exhausted as he was, he turned from the shed and went up the path, which was now newly unobstructed and flanked by plugs of elder, visnaga, and danewort, to the road that would take him back to town.
When he was on the verge of entering the streets on the outskirts of town, on a day a bit more or less like that other day, that very different day, though basically a mirror image of twenty years ago, a hurricane-force wind began to blow up and all of sudden it swept everything up and sent everything haywire. As if it could no longer bear the things to be where they were, the wind began to kick up everythingfrom every direction in every directionwith little whirlwinds of dust and dirt; tumbleweeds and gritty particulates as if they were multiple blasts of bb’s, like tiny needles in your cheeks and forehead, and the dust, the dust everywhere as if everything had been converted to dust, it got into the corners of your eyes as if to make sure that nothing at all would remain to safeguard you from that vortex.
From the outset, pieces of paper and plastic bags began flying through the air along with the grass and the dry leaves that the wind was worrying from place to place. You could hear doors slamming inside houses, things falling and banging, glass breaking, and an empty soda can rattling and bouncing and rolling about, back and forth, as only emptiness can rattle and roll, it seemed to add a metallic hollowness to all the chaos. It would have been difficult to imagine, as it always is, including in the moments before such things happen, that everything will be thrown into such a tizzy, all those things that can possibly totter, that can fall and break, or that can just disappear or shut down in an instant; all the things that can get messed up. Only the plastic bags, inflated and puffy, had a hard time coming back to earth. They were full of the very thing that was sending everything else out of control, they were becoming in a way what everything else was not, remaining in the air for a long time buffeted by the whims of the windstorm. They looked like certain people, or certain things, he thought then, as he watched the bags fill up with air and the empty can rattle around, with a sad smile that his tiredness made even sadder.
Then suddenlythere was no one left on the streetan abrupt fall in the temperature preceded the first isolated drops, really fat drops of a girth so incomprehensible they were so fat that they left imprints on the dust that had accumulated on the streets during the weeks and weeks of drought, they made a pent-up sound, muffled and dull, as if they were smothering something broad and thinly spread. The worst thing, which may at times be really, really very bad indeed, isn’t this so much, what’s happening now, Felipe Díaz Carrión said to himself, thinking not just about storms at the end of summer, it’s the sand and the dust that are sucked up and get into your eyes and don’t let you see, and then anything can happen, anything.