Originally published: 1986 (This edition published April 2018)
Author: Mercè Rodoreda
Set in: Catalan, Spain
Genre: Literary Fiction / Dystopian
Page count: 150
Reading dates: 19-23 May 2018
Star Rating: 3/5
Death in Spring is a dark and disturbing story of a teenage boy’s coming of age in a remote village in the Catalan mountains. The town in which he lives is isolated, cruel customs are followed – one of the opening scenes sees a man on the verge of death being forced to swallow cement in order to keep his soul in his body.
When his father dies, the boy needs to survive in this oppressive society alone.
Often seen as an allegory for life under a dictatorship, I can’t say I really enjoyed this but I did appreciate the beauty of the language – there are rich descriptions of wisteria covering the houses, of bees and butterflies and the pink colour with which they paint their houses every year. At times the customs and events are shocking, but we don’t get much sense of what the characters in the book really think of them.
I’m glad I read this but if it had been a longer book, I don’t think I would have stuck with it.
Mercè Rodoreda is widely regarded as the most important Catalan writer of the twentieth century. Exiled to France during the Spanish Civil War, she was only able to return to Barcelona in the mid-1960s, where she wrote several prize-winning novels. Death in Spring was inspired by her experience of Franco’s dictatorship, She died in 1983 a few years before Death in Spring was published.
Death in Spring is the first in the Penguin European Writers collection: a new series of forgotten classics by European writers and includes an introduction by Colm Tóibín.
It will be followed by The Beautiful Summer by Cesare Pavese (with an introduction by Elizabeth Strout) on 7th June and The Lady and the Little Fox Fur by Violette Leduc (with an introduction by Deborah Levy) on 6th September 2018.
Thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me a copy.