Synopses & Reviews
“I read Unai Elorriaga’s latest novel almost without stopping to breathe. Breathlessly, yes, but not quickly, because Elorriaga’s books are not the kind you read in two or three hours and put back on the shelf. It is a very good novel. Incredibly good.”—Gorka Bereziartua
Plants Don't Drink Coffee achieves a graceful balance between playfulness (in both language and character) and depth of emotion and thought. Unai Elorriaga gives voice to unassuming characters, to “small” people with “small” lives; he magnifies things that often go unnoticed. Four stories narrated from different perspectives crisscross throughout the novel. In the first-person, the young Tomas—who wants above all else to be intelligent—tells us why it is so important for him to catch a blue dragonfly and introduces his extended (and eccentric) family to us one by one. We observe the surrealist creation of a rugby field on a golf course, unravel the mystery of why a couple of forty years never married, and delve into the intrigue surrounding a European carpentry competition that Tomas’ grandfather had taken part in. Vredaman is teaming with dreamers, free spirits, and nonconformists who follow their inner voices. Beneath the novel’s lighthearted and balletic ways lies a gentle wisdom, a lucid vision of human emotion.
Unai Elorriaga’s first novel, A Streetcar to SP,won Spain’s prestigious National Narrative Prize in 2002. The jury was taken by the freshness of his voice and by how utterly unique the book was. Elorriaga is the most celebrated young Basque author in the Spanish literary landscape. Although influenced by Julio Cortázar and Juan Rulfo, Elorriaga stands alone in both the inventiveness of his narrative and in the particular way his characters reveal their humanity. Elorriaga is truly breaking new ground.
Amaia Gabantxo is a literary translator, writer, and reviewer. Her work has appeared in many journals and newspapers, including TheTimes Literary Supplement and The Independent, as well as in An Anthology of Basque Short Stories and Spain: A Traveler’s Literary Companion (Whereabouts Press). Her translation of Anjel Lertxundi’s Perfect Happiness is forthcoming.
"Short sentences, measured words, dialogues pregnant with silences, letters...all can be found in this lively narrative. It is the characters, the stories, and above all, the transparency and gracefulness of the child's outlook that add freshness and strength to Elorriaga's latest book."
"In these stories there is a psychological process, a learning curve, a painful jump toward crucial knowledge. In Vredaman that jump takes place toward the end, which helps the story glide along joyously, aided by the novels two main strengths: the innocent but brilliant, and almost shrewd language of the child narrator and the abundance of secondary stories."
"Vredaman must be understood from a double perspective: as an approach to reality from a non-realist position and also as the practice of pure creativity...Thus while Elorriaga seeks to explain reality outside conventional lines, he doesn't avoid it. The events that take place in the novel are more than uncontrolled inventions: they aim to give the world meaning, and are sometimes imbued with naivety...In other words, Elorriaga does whatever he wants, without concern for convention."
"I read Unai Elorriagas latest novel almost without stopping to breathe. Breathlessly, yes, but not quickly, because Elorriaga's books are not the kind you read in two or three hours and put back on the shelf. It is a very good novel. Incredibly good."
Gorka Bereziartua, Eremulak.com
"Unai Elorriaga does away with the boundaries and coordinates of conventional literature and takes them elsewhere: to the surprising literary territory of a writer with no hang-ups."
Weaving the invisible with the unspeakable, a young Basque boy lets us into his private world.
Four stories narrated from four different perspectives crisscross throughout this poignant and playful novel. Young Tomas - who wants above all else to be intelligent - embarks upon a dizzying search for a rare blue dragonfly, of which he believes there are only nine or ten in the world (and therefore probably only two or three in his town). Drawing us into the channels of his mercurial mind, skipping through misadventures and stumbling upon a host of small wonders, we are introduced to three generations of his motley family tree and accompany them on their odd quests. From the moonlit creation of a rugby field on a golf course, to the unearthing of the escapades of his anarchist grandfather, a celebrated carpenter, the medley of tales flips on their heads standard assumptions about age, wisdom, sensibility, and truth, inviting us to open our eyes to the bounty of tiny marvels that make up our world.
About the Author
Unai Elorriaga was born in 1973 in Bilbao, where he is currently a professor at the Instituto Labairu. He is the author of three novels written in Basque and self-translated into Spanish, including Vant Hoffen ilea (Vant Hoff s Hair), and his 2002 debut, SPrako Tranbia (A Tram to SP), winner of Spains prestigious Premio Nacional de Narrativa. Elorriagas numerous anthologized short stories have also been widely acclaimed.
Amaia Gabantxo is a literary translator, writer, and book critic. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals and newspapers, including the Times Literary Supplement and The Independent. Her translation of Anjel Lertxundis Perfect Happiness was released by the University of Nevada Press in 2007. Gabantxo moonlights as a flamenco singer.