Shanghai Nights, only the third of Marsé's novels to be translated into English, is another crossover of these worlds. It is told by Daniel, an adolescent, who is killing time in 1940s Barcelona after leaving school and before taking up his apprenticeship in a jewellery workshop. He minds an unhinged Civil War veteran named Captain Blay, who lost both his sons in the fighting, and who spends his days campaigning against a gas leak and a factory whose smoke, he says, is killing local people.(...)
Marsé has said that the voices he writes are the voices of his childhood, of mothers and old men, whores, drunks, policemen and informers. If he is occasionally sentimental, his handling of different registers is consummate (as is Nick Caistor's translation) and it is clarity of language that settles the argument. His combined rendition of both childish adventures and an adult moral landscape, relayed in his poised and teasing voice, makes for a novel as fulfilling and provocative as one would like.
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