European novellas: short cut to nowhere? | Richard Lea | Books | guardian.co.uk

Brilliant to see a new, small independent press that publishes translations from smaller literatures getting its props in the national press:

Peirene seem to have hit its stride with Maria Barbal’s Catalan classic, Stone in a Landslide.

Not that this story of life in the Pyrenees at the beginning of the 20th century is a barrel of laughs. The Spanish civil war looms over Barbal’s solid, three-act structure – uprooting, marriage, revolution – lending a granite inevitability to the bad times that are “just waiting behind all the laughter”. But the compression is so deft, the young narrator’s voice so strong, so particular, her straightforward evocation of the hard labour and rare pleasures of mountain life #trout “cooked on a hot stone with pieces of bacon”; the heady whirl of a village dance where, “when the music stops, his smile makes me start breathing again”# so vibrant, that it makes me want to take scissors to everything else I read.

via European novellas: short cut to nowhere? | Richard Lea | Books | guardian.co.uk.

Stone in a Landslide was also reviewed at some length by Daniel Hahn in the Independent (this is just the opening – click through below for the full article):

Stone in a Landslide is the second book from Peirene Press, a new publisher of contemporary European literature which aims to bring English readers “important literary works that have never before been translated”. In some ways it’s an eminently suitable choice – a short novel translated from Catalan, by a writer unknown to the English-speaking world. At the same time, it’s a rather bold choice – not because it’s a particularly avant-garde, boundary-challenging work #it isn’t#, but because it’s all so simple and so quiet that it’s rather hard imagining this to be the one to set the world alight.

via Stone in a Landslide, by Maria Barbal trs Laura McGloughlin, ed Paul Mitchell – Reviews, Books – The Independent.

The book has been widely read in the blogosphere, and readers seem divided between those who find it a delicate, evocative chamber piece and those who find it … well, a little bit dull actually. Not yet having read it for myself, I reserve judgment, but I’m looking forward to it – and I think I’ll be reading the translation, since my Catalan is .. ahem … limited to say the least.

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