Friday, April 16, 2010

Manuel Rivas: Books Burn Badly

Books Burn Badly
Ángel Gurría-Quintana reviews Manuel Rivas' Books Burn Badly.
Books Burn Badly is a demanding novel, artfully translated from Galician by Jonathan Dunne. Its multiple narrative voices and unadvertised time shifts can be disorienting but it repays the reader’s persistence. Connections between characters and events become clearer as the various stories gradually bleed into each other.
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Manuel Rivas, born in La Coruña in 1957, is a novelist, poet, and essayist, and has worked as a journalist for both Spanish-language and Galician-language media in Spain, such as El País and Diario de Galicia. A key figure in the Galician literary renaissance, he has had enormous influence on contemporary Galician literature. He has published eight novels (which he writes in Galician), and was awarded two national prizes, the Premio de la Critica for Un millión de vacas (1989) and the Premio nacional de narrativa for his novel ¿Que me quieres, amor? (1996). His novel The Carpenter’s Pencil (1998), about the repression of dissidents during Franco’s rule, is the only that has been translated into English and was made into a film in 2003. The two-story work, A man dos pianos, first appeared in 2002, followed by Rivas’ own version, La Mano del emigrante, in Castilian (2002). Vermeer’s Milkmaid is his first short story collection to be published in English translation (2002).