Thursday, July 28, 2005

Spanish language litblogging

Yesterday, I finished reading El embrujo de Shanghai. I needed a break from Don Quijote, mostly to remind myself that yes, I am capable of getting an entire book read in Spanish in a relatively short period of time, so I turned to this 246 page novel by Juan Marsé. I think the English title would be The Shanghai Spell; alas, I cannot find an English translation at Amazon or elsewhere. There's a German translation available — at least, German would be my educated guess.

El embrujo de Shanghai is a quite captivating narrative. It has won the status of the least depressing work of narrative fiction set in Franco's Spain that I've ever read. That was a surprise and a relief, seeing as the book that formerly held that status is extremely depressing (yet very good): Tiempo de silencio by Luis Martín-Santos*. Seriously, that was one of the happiest ones. The protagonist of El embrujo de Shanghai is a boy named Dani who lives in Barcelona. He makes friends with a girl of approximately his own age who suffers from a chronic illness and, as one might expect, finds himself falling in love for the first time. The story does not proceed from there as usual. There is a story told within the story by another character, and it is not told all at once but rather revealed piece by piece, keeping both the characters who listen to it and the reader in suspense. The pace of the novel gradually picks up, and the last 30 pages were absolutely packed with action and twists. It's a good read, and I think it's a shame that it does not appear to be available in English.

*Amazon claims to sell the English translation, Time of Silence, here, but the excerpt they have displayed from the book cannot possibly be right. The cover and back cover are correct, but the remainder is not. I don't know how Amazon got the information displayed in the "search inside the book" feature or the first few pages — the novel by Luis Martín-Santos is about a doctor named Pedro who lives in Madrid, not some girl named Judith who is stuck in a cupboard.