Synopses & Reviews
Considered by many to be the grand achievement of her later period, Death in Spring is one of Merce Rodoreda's most complex and beautifully constructed works.
The novel tells the story of the bizarre and destructive customs of a nameless town — burying the dead in trees after filling their mouths with cement to prevent their soul from escaping, or sending a man to swim in the river that courses underneath the town to discover if they will be washed away by a flood — through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old boy who must come to terms with the rhyme and reason of this ritual violence, and with his wild, child-like, and teenaged stepmother, who becomes his playmate. It is through these rituals, and the developing relationships between the boy and the townspeople, that Rodoreda portrays a fully-articulated, though quite disturbing, society. The horrific rituals, however, stand in stark contrast to the novel's stunningly poetic language and lush descriptions.
Written over a period of twenty years — after Rodoreda was forced into exile following the Spanish Civi War — Death in Spring is musical and rhythmic, and truly the work of a writer at the height of her powers. A book for the ages, Death in Spring can be read as a metaphor for Franco's Spain for any oppressed society), or as a mythological quest novel. Similar to Shirley Jackson's work (especially The Lottery), and featuring the imaginative qualities of Raymond Roussel's Impressions of Africa, Rodoreda's last novel is a bold, ambitious statement, and a fitting capstone to her remarkable career.
"Exiled after the Spanish Civil War, Rodoreda (1908 1993) worked on this marvelously disturbing novel over a 20-year period, and its first publication was posthumous. As macabre as a Grimm fairy tale, the novel portrays the cruel customs of an unnamed village as seen through the eyes of an unnamed 14-year-old boy. The narrator witnesses his father's horrible death, which, it becomes clear as the story progresses, happens according to local custom: to pour cement into the mouths of the dying in order to seal their souls within their bodies, then entomb them within a hollowed tree. The narrator also spends a good deal of time with the village prisoner, who for years has been confined to a too-small cage and now is only too happy to explain the bizarre village goings-on to the narrator and his friend, the son of the blacksmith who runs the town. The plot, though anemic, has its share of increasingly perverse twists, and the intense lyricism of Rodoreda's language, captured here by Tennent's gorgeous translation, makes her grotesque vision intoxicating and haunting." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Rodoreda infuses surreal elements into her novel in a similar fashion to her Spanish-language, magical-realist counterparts, using the fantastic to draw out the strangeness of quotidian reality, but perhaps due to its brevity (Death in Spring
comes in at only 150 pages) the magical seems far more saturated than in, say, One Hundred Years of Solitude
, and serves to further the sense that the story takes place in a world impossibly close to but distinctly alien from ours."Hannah Manshel, The Front Table
"The bleakness of Rodoreda's outlook stands in dramatic contrast to the gorgeous lyricism of her prose. In Martha Tennent's translation, her sentences are richly luxuriant, embodying the fecund beauty of spring in bloom while also admitting the imminence of death and decay. Throughout Death in Spring, horror often creeps in right on beauty's heels."Ryan Michael Williams, Rain Taxi
"Tradition is a strange and curious thing. "Death in Spring,"is a novel from Catalan author Merce Rodoreda, expertly translated by Martha Tennent. Focusing on a small town and its strande customs, "Death in Spring" is a very special and highly recommended read."The Midwest Book Review
"The novel is suspenseful, pushing the reader through the images, memories, and voices that flow within the protagonists often confused mind as he develops into manhood. Just as the unnamed protagonist must navigate a world of contradictions, the novel reflects Rodoredas own political, social, and literary exile while speaking of a tyranny that feels almost uncanny in its incantation."Katherine Elaine Sanders, Bomb Magazine
"This novel is just one boy's account of living life; it is an example that tells us a story: a beautiful and evocative and viscerally bloody story about life and death."Patrick Gage Kelley, The Tartan
"Death in Spring is very different from any other story I've read. It's strange and unsettling but still compelling, and has stayed with me for many weeks as I try to work out its meaning. The obvious conclusion is that it is about the corruption of what is natural, as is death in the season of new life and rebirth."Charlotte Simpson, Belletrista
"Originally published posthumously in 1986, and now available in English translation for the first time, Death in Spring
is the masterful and unsettling final novel by the acclaimed Catalan writer Merce Rodoreda. From the book's opening pages, Rodoreda immerses the reader in the strange, disorienting, and extremely disturbing culture of a village defined by the practice of gruesome rituals." Ryan Michael Williams
(read the entire Rain Taxi review
Lushly surreal, Rodoreda's final novel is a mythological depiction of a city ruled by rituals—almost like Franco's Spain.
Musical and rhythmic, Death in Spring relates the bizarre and destructive customs of a nameless town through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old boy who must come to terms with the rhyme and reason of this ritual violence, and with his wild, childlike, and teenaged stepmother, who becomes his playmate.
About the Author
Mercè Rodoreda is widely regarded as the most important Catalan writer of the twentieth century. Exiled to France during the Spanish Civil War, and only able to return to Catalonia in the mid-1960s, she wrote a number of highly praised works, including _The Time of the Doves_ and _Death in Spring_.
Martha Tennent was born in the U.S, but has lived most of her life in Barcelona where she served as founding dean of the School of Translation and Interpreting at the University of Vic. She translates from Spanish and Catalan, and received an NEA Translation Fellowship for her work on Rodoreda.