Inés y la Alegría: Almudena Grandes
Posted by Frank Burns
The world of Spanish literature (coming out of Spain) has recently been dominated by the Civil War 1936-39. This three year war was a bloody conflict, costing nearly 1 million lives, ultimately being won by the invading Nationalist forces, led by Francisco Franco. A period of unstable democracy was replaced by a military dictatorship, and opponents of the regime were ruthlessly hunted down and imprisoned or executed in the years following.
Almudena Grandes has embarked on an ambitious series of six books dealing with this period of Spanish history, and this is the first of that series. Inspired by the verified story of émigré Republican militia invading the Arán valley (just south of the Pyrenees) in 1944, Grandes has created a fascinating fictional account, inter-weaved by true events and personalities, of what happened amongst exiled members of the Spanish Communist party during the Franco years.
Grandes is a consummately skilled writer of fiction, and her writing is predictably engaging throughout, but this volume suffers a little from:
a) being too long. At 730 pages/250,000 words, she luxuriates in over long descriptions, flashbacks and scene setting that tempt the reader to skip chunks so as to move on with the narrative.
b) the constantly shifting time scale, frequently moving backwards and forwards on the same page, sometimes within the same paragraph, can be very disorientating.
However, this volume has whetted my appetite for the succeeding episodes. If you can read them in the original Spanish, I would recommend it highly, but an English translation is available (I understand) from the publisher Tusquets.