Books Burn Badly

Lorna Scott Fox writes:

Manuel Rivas writes in Galician, the least known of Spain’s official languages. Franco’s repression of the four regional languages ended up doing a great deal to stimulate their revival, and Rivas chooses to write in Galician even if not all his characters would have spoken it, even if it means his work’s literary life will be led mostly in translation. Jutting out over Portugal, whose language Galician resembles, the region fell quickly in 1936 to paleo-Catholic supporters of Franco and is still viewed in Spain as a mythic, backward, soulful place, closer to Brittany or Ireland. Galician nationalism has varied in strength since the Romantic period, but local literature has always been sparse compared to that of the Basque region and Catalonia. Books Burn Badly wants to be Galicia’s first great national novel; its subject is the region’s modern history.

(LRB 19 May 2011)

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