Death in spring. I threw myself on the ground, on top of the pebbles, my heart drained of blood, my hands icy. I was fourteen years old, and the man who had entered the tree to die was my father.
A painfully poetic story, this novel, published posthumously, by Mercè Rodoreda, follows a young man growing up in a fantastical village ruled by superstition. A beautiful village, covered in ivy and wisteria, of all (but one) painted rose pink houses, seems like a dream. Its villagers are run by complete madness in their beliefs about death and dying. A person cannot simply die naturally, a natural death means an escaped soul. Instead their villagers bury their dead by pouring pink cement in the mouths of the living and burying them in the trees. Narrated by a young man of reason, the village, through his eyes, descends further into madness and ritualized violence.
This is one of those novels you just have to go with. Almost novella-length at 200 pages, it is a story that wastes not a single page in building a fantastical description of this insane place, crafting it like a dizzying nightmare. It could be magic realism, except the references are so obscured, it’s hard to imagine that this place can represent any sort of reality.
The perspective of the central unnamed character was the only part of this novel that sometimes left me puzzled. He immediately shows an ability to transcend the madness, stumbling through this crazy alternate world just as if he was a complete stranger to it instead. Sometimes I found myself asking: why this man? I am still without answers, but at the same time I let it rest. Some stories are just worth more than the logic I crave to apply to them.
Books Read: 6