7 December 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Welcome to one of the strangest villages in all of fiction! Now that Chad and Brian have gone through the stories, they turn their attention to Rodoreda’s Death in Spring, which was published posthumously in 1986. They’re joined by Catalan researcher and translator Meg Berkobien and Anastasia Nikolis, who you might remember from the season on Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller. This episode is loaded with information about Rodoreda and this novel, followed by accolade after accolade about one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century.

Both Selected Stories and Death in Spring are available through the Open Letter website, and if you use 2MONTH at checkout, you’ll get 20% off.

Feel free to comment on this episode—or on the book in general—either on this post, or at the official GoodReads Group.

Follow Open Letter, Chad Post, Brian Wood, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests.

And you can find all the Two Month Review posts by clicking here. And be sure to leave us a review on iTunes!

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Montseny by Els Surfing Sirles.



5 December 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

For our final episode of the Rodoreda season, Brian and I will be taking the early morning train to NYC (seriously, it leaves at 5:41am, which is a time that exists) so that we can talk about Death in Spring in front of a live audience.

At 7pm at McNally Jackson (52 Prince St.) we’ll be joined by María Cristina Hall of the Ramon Llull Insitut to go over the final section of Rodoreda’s amazing last novel.

After the formal conversation—which will be as varied and fun as the normal episodes, but also with questions from the audience—we will have some Spanish wine to drink while you do your holiday shopping.

See you next week!

5 December 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Coming up on this Thursday’s Two Month Review podcast I join Brian Wood, Meg Berkobien, and Anastasia Nikolis to talk about the opening section of Death in Spring, the first Rodoreda novel that Open Letter ever published. To preface that conversation (which is a lot of gushing over her prose and ideas, along with some solid historical information), I thought I’d break out some aspects of Part I.

If you prefer, you can also download this post as a PDF document.

As always, you can get Death in Spring and Selected Stories for 20% from our website by using the code 2MONTH. It’s also available at better bookstores everywhere.

And be sure to join the Goodreads group and subscribe to the Three Percent Podcast on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts.

This week’s podcast—the first to dig into Rodoreda’s final novel, Death in Spring—is one of the most informative ones we’ve recorded to date. This isn’t to dismiss anything that came before (I love all my baby podcasts equally), but given Meg Berkobien’s background both as a translator and academic, she was able to bring the knowledge. You’ll have to listen to the whole thing to get all the goods, but here are a few choice bits that provide some background.

First things first, although this book was published posthumously, a few years after her passing, it’s by no means incomplete. There’s a mention on the Mercè Rodoreda Foundation website about how she submitted it for a literary prize back in the 1960s. It lost, she was greatly disappointed, she spent twenty years refining and honing it. That’s committment! And god damn does it show. This is one of the most carefully crafted novels I’ve ever read. No word is out of place (special shout-out to Martha Tennent), every image is layered throughout, every sentence feels twice as long as it is. This book is magical. So, although it was “unfinished” in the sense that she never approved the final proofs, but it’s not incomplete. It’s a full novel with a satisfying ending. As you’ll see.

One of the first things you’ll notice is that the village in which the novel takes place is unlike any village you’ve ever visited. Outside of time, home to a very unique set of myths and rituals, this place is a bit bewildering and disturbed. (Or a slightly exaggerated and twisted version of the myths and rituals in our lives?) Although the geography doesn’t seem nearly as unsettled, the layout of the village can be hard to visualize. But, thanks to Mercè (via Meg), we have this sketch of the village:



There’s a lot more that could be said about the background to this novel, but I think that’s best left to the podcast. Also, I kind of want to provide a bit of an overview to this section, but, well, I’m afraid that it will scare some of you off since it will sound absolutely batshit. Still, it can be useful for understanding the set of quotes below, so here goes:

In part one we’re introduced to our main character, a fourteen-year-old boy who lives in a village that is bound by strange beliefs and rituals. One of those rituals involves what happens to a dying body—something that the boy sees firsthand in the opening pages of the novel when his dad passes away. Freed from his parents, he serves as the reader’s lens onto the village in which he lives. In this first part, a lot of the world building is set forth. We learn about some of the major characters (the Blacksmith, the stepmother, Senyor), and some of the annual events that organize the lives of the villagers. At the start of this section, a bee is following the boy, at the end he crushes a bee. That happens as well.

As you can probably tell, the plot itself—though there, though compelling—is secondary to the way in which Rodoreda creates this almost alien environment. Although “world building” is a term usually used more in connection with Game of Thrones than modernist literature in translation, it’s very apropos here, for this part.

Rather than ramble on about this, I want to give you a taste of Rodoreda’s writing, which is absolutely phenomenal. And to tie her prose to the idea of world building, I’d like to look at three things that run throughout this section: myths, rituals, and fears. I’m more or less just going to piece together quotes from the book that fit into those respective categories. This will also give you an immediate sense of how weird this book is, and will probably (hopefully) make you want to read it. It’s wild! There’s nothing quite like Death in Spring and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.

This post and these lists will likely serve as building blocks for trying to create a larger understanding of what Rodoreda’s up to in this book as we go along. Not that there’s a single reading or way to understand this book—not by any means. The ways in which interpretations of images and motifs shift throughout the novel is one reason why this is so rich, so engrossing, and so lasting. Let’s dig in.

Myths

The old men explained that the low wind on Maraldina blew through the brush when no one was on the mountain. It carried souls that wandered the mountain with the sole purpose of creating fierce winds whenever we went in search of powder, rendering our work more arduous. The wind was telling us that ours was a senseless job, something that was better left undone. Souls have no mouths, so they spoke to us through the voice of the wind.


Souls and shadows show up a lot in this book. Usually tied together. Shadows take on a real physical presence in this novel, even if it is a presence that works on the edges of existence. They’re also responsible for a lot of the beliefs held by the villages, including this creation myth:

On a slope, man met shadow and they never parted. They established the village. The man, the shadow by his side, planted the first wisteria. But that’s not exactly how it was. A long time ago when the oldest of the old men in the village was young, he witnessed the birth of everything. The village was born from the earth’s terrible unrest. The mountain was cleaved and it collapsed into the river, scattering the water through the fields. But the river wanted to flow with all of its water gathered together and began burrowing beneath the crumpled mountain, emptying it little by little. The river never rested until all the water could flow happily together again, although at times it grew furious when it hit the rock ceiling. They say that one night, not at the bottom of the slope, but on the ground, on the rocks hurled from the cliff, the moon showed two shadows joined at the mouth. And it rained blood. That is how it all began.


Yep. As Meg mentions on the podcast, Rodoreda was very interested in cosmogony, which is quite evident in this book. There’s one more myth that I want to share—one that also crosses over into the section about the village’s rituals:

Near the canes where I was hiding, a group of dirty, disheveled women were sitting on the ground away from the fire, their eyes blindfolded. They were the pregnant ones. They covered their eyes because if they gazed at other men, the children they were carrying would also take a peek and begin to resemble the men. They said a woman fell in love with every man she saw, and the longer she was pregnant, the faster she fell in love. So, what with women falling in love and children looking, what shouldn’t happen, happened.


This is an example of how these unusual beliefs—how genetics are influenced by love—end up creating a series of rituals that keep this society functioning. In this case, all pregnant women are blindfolded, which, though cruel and misguided (although some flat-earther out there would probably buy into this “science”), is not as violent and messy as what happens when you die.

Rituals

Again, I don’t want to give away too much (read the book!), so I’ll just quote this passage about what happens when someone is dying and why without any larger context:

Don’t kill him, shouted the cement man. The mortar trough, filled with rose-colored cement, lay at this feet. Don’t kill him before he has been filled. They pried his mouth partially open, and the cement man began to fill it. First with watery cement so it would slide far down inside him, then with thick cement. When he was well cemented, they stood him up and put him back inside the tree. They replaced the cross and left to prepare the Festa. [. . .] I would end my days locked in that tree, my mouth full of cement that had been mixed with crimson powder, my entire soul within. Because, you see, the blacksmith used to say that with the last breath, without anyone realizing, your soul flees. And no one knows where it goes.


Cement to keep your soul in. Otherwise maybe it will be part of the fierce winds that make the search for powder more difficult. OK. Got it. And speaking of that powder, the men and boys gather this special pink powder every spring so that they can repaint all of the houses in the village. Every year. Like clockwork. As if it’s part of nature.

For a funeral Festa, they killed horses and pregnant mares. First, they ate the soup, then the horse or mare, and then a morsel—but only a small piece because there wasn’t much to go round—of the little ones the mares were carrying inside them. They made a paste with the brains; it helped digestion.

If you think that’s gross, wait till you read about the stepmother snacking on balls of fat . . .

Fear

Most, if not all, rituals exist because a group is afraid of what would happen if they don’t perform the ritual. Their mythic beliefs contain a bit of danger (don’t let the souls out!), so they create a particular set of actions to stave off the threat. They’re afraid of something.

There are a variety of normal fears sprinkled throughout the first couple parts of this book, but one thing that I want to track as we read and talk about this is the role of Senyor. Here’s how he’s introduced:

All of the houses were pink except one: the house that belonged to Senyor. He lived at the top of the small mountain that was cleaved by a cliff and overlooked the village, protecting and menacing. The cliff, topped by Senyor’s house, was covered with ivy that blazed in autumn and died soon after.


Innocent enough, I suppose. But then there are a few lines that, taken together, bring in a slightly more ominous tone:

When I had finished planting the grass, I thought again about Senyor’s house. I could see the side of it, the side without windows. It was topped by a spire. I could see Senyor, in my thoughts, coughing and eating honey, waiting always for the river to carry away the village. [. . .]

When we burned [the leaves], we would look up because Senyor’s head would appear through the long, narrow, middle window, and we would stick out our tongues at him. He would remain motionless, as if made of stone, and when the blue smoke disappeared, he would close his window, and that was it until the following year.


We’ll see more of Senyor soon enough, but I think I’ll leave it there for now. This is a much easier book to talk about (just wait till you hear the podcast) than it is to write about. Granted, I’m sort of holding back because part of the joy of reading this first section is finding yourself in a strange new world that you slowly come to understand—something I don’t want to take away from anyone. But even putting that aside, there’s just so much here. So many approaches to take. In future weeks, I hope to get more into the actual craft of her sentences and paragraphs, talk a bit more about how an element (like the bee in this section) is introduced early on and then weaves through the chapter accruing significance as it goes along. There’s also the issue of what sort of bildungsroman this really is, and if there’s a different world that this village maps on to (such as Franco’s Spain).

This is a good start though—especially if you listen to Thursday’s podcast. That really puts things in motion.

30 November 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

After yelling at Skype a bunch, Chad, Brian, and special guest Tom Flynn of Volumes Bookcafe discuss the merits of some of Rodoreda’s final stories, especially “The Thousand Franc Bill,” “Paralysis,” and “The Salamander.” Then they manage to slightly diss groups upon groups of people—in a rather entertaining way. And they discuss the state of the short story collection and how stories are perceived by publishing execs and bookstores. They also preview next week’s book, Death in Spring.

Both Selected Stories and Death in Spring are available through the Open Letter website, and if you use 2MONTH at checkout, you’ll get 20% off.

Feel free to comment on this episode—or on the book in general—either on this post, or at the official GoodReads Group.

Follow Open Letter, Chad Post, Brian Wood, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests. Follow Volumes Books to keep up to date on all their events, staff picks, and general comments.

And you can find all the Two Month Review posts by clicking here. And be sure to leave us a review on iTunes!

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Montseny by Els Surfing Sirles.



28 November 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, and here it is: A single Word Document collecting all the posts about The Invented Part along with all of the Two Month Review podcasts.

What I did was list every single essay with a link to the corresponding podcast, followed by the complete interview that Will Vanderhyden did with Fresán, followed by a simple list of all eleven podcasts with the names of the guests.

It’s a mere 73 pages long, and—I hope—is really helpful in understanding the first book in Fresán’s mind-blowing trilogy. There’s some solid analysis in here, some clues for helping you get through the more challenging sections, and lots of jokes. This is one of the books that I read this year that helped keep alive my love of literature and what it can do.

And the guests on the eleven podcast episodes were incredible! Mark Binelli, Jonathan Lethem, Rachel Cordasco, Jeremy Garber, Tom Flynn, Tom Roberge, Valerie Miles, Will Vanderhyden, and Fresán himself all came on to talk about this novel.

So if you haven’t read the book already, or if you want to teach it in your class (hint, hint), please download this document and use it as a sort of spirited, non-academic reading guide. With audio. Reading guide plus audio. Man, it almost does sound like a class . . .

Enjoy!

28 November 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Coming up on this Thursday’s Two Month Review podcast I join Brian Wood and Tom Flynn to talk about the last six stories in Rodoreda’s Selected Stories. (And mildly insult a bunch of different people. As you do.) I’m not prefacing that conversation at all in the post below.

As always, you can get Selected Stories and Death in Spring for 20% from our website by using the code 2MONTH. It’s also available at better bookstores everywhere.

And be sure to join the Goodreads group and subscribe to the Three Percent Podcast on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts.

I don’t know if it’s the winter weather setting in (it’s dark outside here in Rochester at 4:30pm), the combined bleakness of all of Rodoreda’s stories, the fact that it’s time for the “Best Books of 2017” lists to start crushing my hope and joy list-by-list, or that it’s simply difficult to write about a short story collection week after week, but regardless, I don’t have it in me to write one of my normal, long, rambling posts about Rodoreda’s Selected Stories. (I do have a really good thing planned for next week’s Death in Spring intro post though, so stay tuned.)

Instead, now that we’re done reading this entire collection, I thought I would pull a FlavorFeed and just rank all the stories from my most favorite to my least. So here goes!

1. “Carnival”
2. “The Salamander”
3. “The Thousand Franc Bill”
4. “Happiness”
5. “Friday, June 8”
6. “The Mirror”
7. “Paralysis”
8. “Orléans, Three Kilometers”
9. “The Bath”
10. “Before I Die”
11. “Nocturnal”
12. “The Beginning”
13. “Summer”
14. “It Seemed Like Silk”
15. “In a Whisper”
16. “Guinea Fowls”
17. “Ice Cream”
18. “On a Dark Night”
19. “The Red Blouse”
20. “Engaged”
21. “Threaded Needle”
22. “Ada Liz”
23. “Night and Fog”
24. “White Geranium”
25. “The Fate of Lisa Sperling”
26. “Departure”
27. “Blood”
28. “Afternoon at the Cinema”
29. “Love”
30. “On the Train”

23 November 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

After doing a bit of a deeper dive into the situation in Catalonia—and discussing the LIVE recording that will take place on December 12th at the new McNally Jackson—Chad and Brian are joined by George Carroll to talk about this batch of Rodoreda’s stories. Although a couple of the stories discussed in this episode (especially “Before I Die”) fit in with her more domestic stories, there is a distinct shift in tone and subject as she starts writing more about World War II (“On a Dark Night,” “Orléans, Three Kilometers”), which points toward her later works, especially Death in Spring.

Both Selected Stories and Death in Spring are available through the Open Letter website, and if you use 2MONTH at checkout, you’ll get 20% off.

Feel free to comment on this episode—or on the book in general—either on this post, or at the official GoodReads Group.

Follow Open Letter, Chad Post, Brian Wood, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests. And stay tuned to Lit in Translation for more writing and opinions from George Carroll.

And you can find all the Two Month Review posts by clicking here. And be sure to leave us a review on iTunes!

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Montseny by Els Surfing Sirles.



22 November 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Coming up on this Thursday’s Two Month Review podcast I join Brian Wood and George Carroll to talk about some of the stranger, more war influenced, Rodoreda stories. Specifically, we talk about “Before I Die,” “Ada Liz,” “On a Dark Night,” “Night and Fog,” and “Orléans, Three Kilometers.” I’ll try and preface that conversation below.

If you prefer, you can also download this post as a PDF document.

As always, you can get Selected Stories and Death in Spring for 20% from our website by using the code 2MONTH. It’s also available at better bookstores everywhere.

And be sure to join the Goodreads group and subscribe to the Three Percent Podcast on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts.

This is the first week that we’re looking at stories outside of Vint-i-dos contes, with four of the stories under discussion coming from Rodoreda’s Semblava de seda i alters contes (It Seemed Like Silk and Other Stories) from 1978.1 As we note on the podcast (a few times), the stories in these later collections move away from more domestic settings about relationships, betrayal, and sadness, into stories with more magical elements (“On a Dark Night,” “The Salamander”) and ones that are clearly influenced by her wartime experiences (“Orléans, Three Kilometers,” “Night and Fog.”).

In trying to come up with what to write about this week, I thought it might be interesting to bring in a slightly different perspective—a more academic one. A long time back, I mentioned the two extant academic books about Rodoreda: Voices and Visions and The Garden across the Border, both edited by Kathleen McNerney.

A good portion of the essays in these two books are about the novels—especially The Time of the Doves (aka In Diamond Square) and Death in Spring—but there are a number of interesting pieces about the stories to pull from. And since Kaija left a question on the Goodreads group about the differences between the male and female perspectives in the stories, especially as they relate to their emotions and situations, I thought we could take a look at that this week.

Adding to that, as both another Goodreads member and Brian have pointed out, the stories told from a male perspective have tended to be the least convincing, and usually have something different going on in terms of their emotional content and setting.

As is so happens, there’s an essay in The Garden across the Border by Josep Miquel Sobrer called “Gender and Personality in Rodoreda’s Short Fiction,” which sounds, well, interesting. Let’s check it out!

*


In Sobrer’s piece, he focuses on three particular stories: “The Red Blouse,” “The Hen,” and “On a Dark Night.” (Which, SPOILER, happens to be the story that most baffled George on this week’s podcast.) Before getting into these though, Sobrer lays out a few interesting things about Rodoreda’s female characters that might interest anyone reading this:

According to Geraldine C. Nichols, for example, Rodoreda’s women may be sorted into triomfadores (winners [or writers, as in Nichols’s title]), wantons, and witches. These three categories, in my view, emerge from the crossing of two opposite but complementary forces: oppression and liberation. Rodoreda’s women come to life when they accept their thirst for liberation, often in the form of an obstinate desire, and become conscious of the oppression that has been forced upon them. [. . .] Rodoreda’s women characters are born in rebellion and often in anger. These are the forces moving Rodoreda’s literature, and indeed those characters are often narrators, conceived as voices, eminently a voice crying out for consciousness and freedom.


And in a much more learned way than how Brian and I would describe it, Sobrer gets at what makes these stories so emotionally charged:

In her world, characters come into being as they open to feeling. Her characters oscillate between their desire for happiness and an inner and dark need for self-destruction or at least for spiritual misery. Desire often crumbles into disenchantment, reality into resignation. Awareness comes dangerously close to despair. Women [. . .] feel the prodding of their desire for freedom and love, and a barely confessed fear of attaining either of those ideals. Men dream of freedom, commitment, and duty while they continue to behave possessively, even abusively. Rodoreda offers a pessimistic (or perhaps only realistic) vision of a world in which overcoming suffereing leads mostly to solitude, emptiness, and even death: Lisa Sperling, Ada Liz, the Marta Coll of “Before I Die,” and the protagonist of “Paralysis” are all good examples.


That’s a pretty good rundown of why these stories can be so hard to read at times. There’s a lot of despair and resignation, but given how perfectly depicted, how charged, how well internal states are reflected by external surroundings, Rodoreda elevates these stories from being simply “depressing” into something amazingly well-crafted and lasting.

What he says about the male characters—dreaming of freedom and duty while behaving awfully—is pretty true? I’ll come back to this in a minute, but one of the difficulties of writing about, or simply evaluating, a collection of stories is that generalizing can be kind of tricky. Even the omnipresent flowers seem to shift in meaning and importance from story to story. So let’s look at one specific story narrated by a man—“On a Dark Night.”

This story is as mysterious and evocative as “The Hen” is grim. A soldier leaves the trenches during a cease fire and, after traversing a zone now magically moist and fertile, finds a house with three sets of walls. Inside, an unknown young woman is awaiting him. They fall into each other’s arms in a rapture. She says of herself: “I was born to live only at night.” The soldier is convinced her name is Loki: “Why this name and not another, since I was certain that she hadn’t mentioned it?” [. . .] Just as many other male characters, the soldier repeats the name Loki obsessively and possessively. Naming the woman, repeating the woman’s name, and even changing the woman’s name is a clear sign of obsession/possession.


After some talk of the oddness of this name—be it a reference to the Thor and the Ragnarok, or to luck or to “loca”—Sobrer reiterates that regardless of which path you might go down, Loki is a “representation of death.” “The war brings death everywhere in the story, and our soldier is soon fatally wounded. [. . .] Loki is the night and the soldier’s death, his liberation in the release of his vital fluids.”

This is all fine and interesting, and circles back to a lot of things you’ll hear on Thursday’s podcast. But in terms of the male nature of this story? . . .

The treatment of character I have discussed above shows the ways in which Rodoreda builds her fictional world. People in her short fiction tend to follow major gender-related lines. Both men and women are moved by fantasy, but with a difference. Fantasy leads women toward their liberation or makes them aspire to it; on the darker side of the same general process women are moved by their ambition, be that material or spiritual. Ambition in these characters is born from an aspiration, their aspiration for self-fulfillment. [. . .] It is that aspiration, ultimately a quest for self-fulfillment, that leads so many of Rodoreda’s characters to worldly ambition, to a confessed or unconfessed reaching out toward money and ownership of space.


I have to say that I particularly like this characterization. It comes up in “The Thousand Franc Bill,” a story we’ll surely talk about next week, which opens with the line “I’m fed up with being poor” and then goes off in some uncomfortable—yet aspirational, in a sad, dirty way—directions.

But the men! Their aspirational qualities are different:

Aspiration in male characters, on the other hand, has its roots in an outward movement; it is other-directed. Men are condemned to their possessiveness whether they act on it or not. Their greed will not liberate them, but rather alienate them, chain them to their ownership and even thrust them into madness [. . .] Rodoreda’s men project their fantasy outward, a quality that often makes them obsessive, and not infrequently afraid.


I’m not sure all the stories/characters fit this sort of rubric, but it’s a useful idea for looking at stories like “Nocturnal” and “On a Dark Night” and “The Red Blouse.”

*


It’s really hard to write about a short story collection every week. At least for a “selected” or “collected” story collection. This is a lame complaint to make about a project that I forced on myself, but it does relate to the never-ending complaints by publishing folk that “short stories don’t sell.” I’m not 100% convinced that’s true, but it’s one of the reasons why we see a lot more “Collected Stories” or collections that have a clear, singular theme or style.

Like, it’s a lot easier to describe a George Saunders collection than a book like this. And if a book takes some sort of work to understand, to digest, if it’s not handed to you in the jacket copy, then most people just ignore it. Readers are, to be honest, pretty lazy. I believe in the general collection though. I think 95% of the stories in Rodoreda’s book are some of the most brilliant, well-crafted stories I’ve read. I think she’s on par with the best of the best and that the fact her books haven’t sold 10,000 copies in English translation is proof positive that we live in a fucked part of the multiverse. I mean, seriously, The Big Bang Theory is popular. Bazinga!

Which brings up another question, that’s partially on my mind because of the deep(ish) dive I’ve done into academic writing—what’s the best way to talk about an author like Rodoreda?

*


There’s another article in Voices and Visions called “Mercè Rodoreda and the Criticism of Her Works: Analysis and Selected Bibliography” by María Isidra Mencos, which addresses the evolution of Rodoreda criticism over the years. This is sort of analogous to trying to write about this collection every week . . .

As various critics have indicated, Mercè Rodoreda was marginalized as an author in various respects. First, because of her political position as a catalanista and a supporter of the Republic, she was forced into exile after the Spanish Civil War. Second, her way of life, atypical with respect to social norms of the period—specifically, her relationship with a married man, the writer Armand Obiols—produced feelings of hostility in a certain sector of the Catalan intelligentsia. And finally, as a woman who, moreover, belonged to a minority culture, her literary efforts were condemned to being undervalued. This is revealed in histories of contemporary Spanish literature: these conced far less importance to Rodoreda than to her male contemporaries, whose works entered the canon much earlier, although they are neither superior in quality, nor as well received by the reading public.


YES. Insert “Dubravka Ugresic” and “Yugoslav War” in there and you’ve explained the shitty situation surrounding another Open Letter author.

An examination of the criticism of Rodoreda’s work enables us to identify different theoretical perspectives, although, in many cases, several are combined within a single study. The perspectives most frequently utilized are the following:

—thematic or symbolic analysis, which associates the work of Rodoreda with her

—feminist analysis

—psychoanalysis

—historical analysis

—linguistic analysis

—formalist analysis, structuralist analysis, narratological analysis, etc.


All of these approaches have their merits, but as we head into Death in Spring, I want to end this meandering post with one last long quote:

There are researchers in many places who have based all or part of their studies on symbolic analysis. Bachelard is the theories most often cited. There are many articles, however, that are based directly on Rodoreda’s work, and that accomplish a contextual analysis of its symbols. Many of these articles combine symbolic and thematic analysis with other types, and they reveal a certain bias—feminist, narratological and/or psychoanalytic—but without explicitly aligning themselves with a specific theory. We should include in this category of symbolic analysis the studies of archetypes, which link Rodoreda’s work to rites of initiation and the trajectory of the hero; such studies are often made with respect to War, So Much War. Another example of this, although somewhat different, is the study of the symbols in Death in Spring, carried out from an anthropological perspective.


1 Quick note: We lied on the back of this book. These stories are not in chronological order. For whatever reason—I can’t remember Sunday, much less what our then-editor did seven years ago—we put the stories from It Seemed Like Silk and Other Stories before the ones from My Christina. If you’re a stickler for chronology, you should read “The Salamander,” “Love,” and “White Geranium” after “Before I Die” and before “Ada Liz.” Given that these three collections do have different themes—more on this later—it might make sense to reorder and group these together.

20 November 17 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Arianne Aron on The Truce by Mario Benedetti, published by Penguin Random House UK.

Here is the beginning of Arianne’s review:

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country, he was an outspoken supporter of the Frente Amplio, resisting the brutal dictatorship that forced him into a 12-year exile. He was a man who took sides, and took chances. That such a man could invent the intimate diary of a person like Martín Santomé says much for Benedetti’s deep sensitivity to the human condition. The diary is the text for his 1960 novel La Tregua (The Truce).

Martín Santomé is a 49-year-old worn out accountant close to retirement, a widower living with his three grown children. A casual bed fellow once described him as looking like a clerk even when he’s making love. He is so unimaginative that, of all the occupations in the world, what he would choose if he’d be something other than an accountant, is to be a waiter. As he looks back on the 20 years since his wife’s death, he realizes that he hasn’t been happy, but he did right by his children. He was spared “the unyielding look that is reserved for heartless fathers.”


For the rest of the review, go here.

16 November 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Things are a bit rough for Chad the morning after the Open Letter gala, but he powers through and talks about this new phase of Rodoreda’s stories. He and Brian break down some of the more challenging of her stories, including “Noctural” and “The Bath,” and talk about what does and doesn’t work in creating an authentic voice, and how to behave on airplanes.

Both Selected Stories and Death in Spring are available through the Open Letter website, and if you use 2MONTH at checkout, you’ll get 20% off.

Feel free to comment on this episode—or on the book in general—either on this post, or at the official GoodReads Group.

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The music for this season of Two Month Review is Montseny by Els Surfing Sirles.



The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >

I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World
I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju
Reviewed by Jacob Rogers

Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, is a wonderful absurdist poetry collection. It’s a mix of verse and prose poems, or even poems in the. . .

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Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

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The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

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A Simple Story: The Last Malambo
A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Leila Guerriero
Reviewed by Emilee Brecht

Leila Guerriero’s A Simple Story: The Last Malambo chronicles the unique ferocity of a national dance competition in Argentina. The dance, called the malambo, pushes the physical and mental limits of male competitors striving to become champions of not only. . .

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The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof
The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof by Cesar Aira
Reviewed by Will Eells

Aira continues to surprise and delight in his latest release from New Directions, which collects two novellas: the first, The Little Buddhist Monk, a fairly recent work from 2005, and The Proof, an earlier work from 1989. There are a. . .

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Agnes
Agnes by Peter Stamm
Reviewed by Dorian Stuber

The narrator of Peter Stamm’s first novel, Agnes, originally published in 1998 and now available in the U.S. in an able translation by Michael Hofmann, is a young Swiss writer who has come to Chicago to research a book on. . .

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Class
Class by Francesco Pacifico
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

The thing about Class is that I don’t know what the hell to think about it, yet I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ll begin by dispensing with the usual info that one may want to know when considering adding. . .

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The Dispossessed
The Dispossessed by Szilárd Borbély
Reviewed by Jason Newport

To be, or not to be?

Hamlet’s enduring question is one that Szilárd Borbély, acclaimed Hungarian poet, verse-playwright, librettist, essayist, literary critic, short-story writer, and, finally, novelist, answered sadly in the negative, through his suicide in 2014, at the. . .

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A Greater Music
A Greater Music by Bae Suah
Reviewed by Pierce Alquist

A Greater Music is the first in a line of steady and much-anticipated releases by Bae Suah from key indie presses (this one published by Open Letter). Building off of the interest of 2016 Best Translated Book Award longlist nominee. . .

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