The Time of the Doves
Writers and artists alike have long drawn inspiration from Barcelona’s beauty and individuality, assuming its evident character for their works. Below we take a look at some of the biggest Spanish titles to be translated into English in recent years that have taken the Catalan capital as their backdrop.
* The Angel’s Game by Barcelona-born Carlos Ruiz Zafón is the follow-up to the massively successful Shadow of the Wind, the gothic tale featuring the ominous-sounding Cementery of Forgotten Books. Fans of the first book (of which there are many worldwide) will be happy to learn that the mysterious tones have prevailed into the second book; set in Twenties’ Barcelona, a young man sets out to write a life-changing book. With narrative twists and turns you can immerse yourself in the shadows of the dark side of the city whilst lazing on the beach this summer.
The Angel’s Game (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, June 2009. Translated by Lucia Graves)
* The Cathedral of the Sea by Catalan Ildefonso Falcones is another book where Barcelona is one of the main protagonists, this time in its medieval guise. An international best-seller, this is an epic tale covering plague, famine, love, the battle of good versus evil and the arduous journey from poverty to riches. The eponymous cathedral is the famous Santa Maria del Mar, a church built by the people for the people. The plot speeds along and readers shouldn’t be put off by the length (752 pages)—it’s a hard-to-put-down saga.
The Cathedral of the Sea (Black Swan, March 2009. Translated by Nick Caistor)
* The Best Thing That Can Happen to a Croissant was the debut novel of Barcelona author Pablo Tusset and was highly praised on its release. In the same vein as Charles Bukowski or Irvine Welsh, it’s definitely aimed at the lads’ market with frequent bad-taste references and comedy overtones but the narrative takes a sinister turn when one of the characters disappears and the chase begins to find him.
The Best Thing That Can Happen to a Croissant (Canongate, 2005. Translated by Kristina Cordero)
* La Plaça del Diamant by Mercè Rodoreda is perhaps the most iconic books to be set in the city. Originally published in 1962, it was not until the early Eighties that an English translation of the book came out under the title The Time of the Doves. When the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939, the Catalan language was suppressed and Mercè Rodoreda, already an established writer, moved to France. After a forced creative hiatus she started writing again: in 1957, she published her first work in 20 years, Vint-i-dos-contes (Twenty-two Stories) and five years later La Plaça del Diamant appeared. Rodoreda is still widely considered to be one of the 20th century’s best Catalan authors and this book, now translated into 33 languages, offers an insightful narrative regarding the chaos and hardship that war brings to the everyday lives of the people caught up in it. It tells the story of a young Barcelona pastry-seller against the backdrop of the Civil War and the first years of Francoism. Using stream-of-consciousness, Rodoreda is able to allow access to her protagonist’s naive emotional reactions and demonstrate how the monumental historical events unfolding in her country play into her life, her loves and her ultimate survival.
The Time of the Doves (Graywolf Press, 1989. Translated by David H Rosenthal)
FURTHER READING—Other works by Mercè Rodoreda that are available in English translation:
A Broken Mirror (Bison Books, 1996. Translated by Josep Miguel Sobrer)—Spanning six decades and three generations, beautiful but poor Teresa Goday’s marriage to a wealthy older man in 1870s’ Barcelona is the catalyst for 60 years of love, murder, incest and tragedy.
Death in Spring (Open Letter Books, 2009. Translated by Martha Tennent)—A 14-year-old boy struggles to make sense of the bizarre and violent rituals practised in his small town.