Books

The Low Voices

Manuel Rivas (and others)

The Low Voices is a novel about life, it is life itself telling stories, it is the memory of the quiet voices of the people I got to know.

The Low Voices draws on a patchwork of memories from Rivas’s early life under Franco. There’s his beloved elder sister, María; his mother, the verbivore; his father, a construction worker with vertigo; and a supporting cast of local priests, chatty hairdressers, wolf hunters and monstrous carnival effigies.

The book is full of wonderful personal stories, set against a background of the ravages of the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath at home, and the wider world as Coca-Cola sets up a factory nearby and news comes in of men landing on the moon.

A brilliant coming-of-age novel from one of Spain’s greatest storytellers, The Low Voices is a humorous and philosophical take on memory, belonging, and the nature of storytelling itself.

All Is Silence

Manuel Rivas (and others)

Manuel Rivas delivers a literary masterpiece about three young friends growing up in a community which is bound by a conspiracy of silence


Fins and Brinco are best friends, and they both adore the wild and beautiful Leda. The three young friends spend their days exploring the dunes and picking through the treasures that the sea washes on to the shores of Galicia. One day, as they are playing in the abandoned school on the edge of the village, they come across treasure of another kind: a huge cache of whisky hidden under a sheet. But before they can exploit their discovery a shot rings out, and a man wearing an impeccable white suit and panama hat enters the room. That day they learn the most important lesson of all, that the mouth is for keeping quiet.

Butterfly's Tongue

Manuel Rivas (and others)

In the summer of 1936, before the outbreak of the Civil War that plunged Spain into three tears of agony and terror, eight-year-old Moncho is beginning his first day at school. Butterfly's Tongue is about a friendship between the boy and his schoolmaster, born of their shared interest in animal and insect life. In Saxophone in the Mist a young musician discovers the meaning of music and of love in the face of a girl he meets on a foggy night at a fair; while in Carmina the boy listens as an old man relates how a village dog named Tarzan used to frustrate him in his attempts to woo his beloved.

Books Burn Badly

Manuel Rivas (and others)

On 19 August 1936 Hercules the boxer stands on the quayside at Coruña and watches Fascist soldiers piling up books and setting them alight. With this moment a young carefree group of friends are transformed into a broken generation.
Out of this incident during the early months of Spain's tragic civil war, Manuel Rivas weaves a colourful tapestry of stories and unforgettable characters to create a panorama of twentieth-century Spanish history. For it is not only the lives of Hercules the boxer and his friends that are tainted by the unending conflict, but also those of a young washerwoman who sees souls in the clouded river water and the stammering son of a judge who uncovers his father's hidden library.

As the singed pages fly away on the breeze, their stories live on in the minds of their readers.

In The Wilderness

Manuel Rivas

A glorious cast of animals and birds, as well as humans, relate the magical stories that form the plot of Manuel Rivas's extraordinary novel. An old lady, Misia, tells how the 300 ravens of Xallas are the warrior-poets of the last King of Galicia. A priest, Don Xil, explains to a peasant girl, Rosa, that the beautifully carved women in the local church are not saints, but represent the seven deadly sins. A mouse, Matac-ns, a poacher in his previous life, is chased by a cat, the bagpiper and anarchist, Arturo of Lousame. A bat, Gaspar, relates his own death to a lizard. In a nearby cellar, half the parish are found to have transmigrated into spiders, snails, toads-Manuel Rivas's story emerges like spirals of smoke, in a series of memorably poetic images. His characters have their roots deep in the traditions, legends and history of his beloved Galicia. Few contemporary storytellers share his power of vision and sense of cultural identity, or can narrate their tales with such tenderness and humour.

Vermeer's Milkmaid

Manuel Rivas

The theme of non-communication in human relationships in a world saturated with information is the connecting thread in this collection of stories. The mystery of light in Vermeer's famous painting inspires a writer; a travelling lingerie salesman is helped by a rock musician as he waits for his runaway son; an emigrant describes his experiences in Havana to his nephew; a thief, killed while robbing a bank, recounts his love story.

Non-communication in a world saturated with information is the connecting theme in this lively collection of stories by the author of The Carpenter's Pencil. The everyday lives of Rivas's unforgettable characters may be desperate and harsh, filled with pain and solitude, but humour and tenderness always redeem them. Vermeer's Milkmaid includes the three stories that comprise Butterfly's Tongue, upon which Jos- Luis Cuerda's acclaimed film of the same title is based.

Carpenter's Pencil

Manuel Rivas

It is the summer of 1936, the early months of the agonising civil war that engulfs Spain and shakes the rest of the world. In a prison in the pilgrim city of Santiago de Compostela, an artist sketches the famous porch of the cathedral, the Portico da Gloria. He uses a carpenter's pencil. But instead of reproducing the sculptured faces of the prophets and elders, he draws the faces of his fellow Republican prisoners.

Many years later in post-Franco Spain, a survivor of that period, Doctor Daniel da Barca, returns from exile to his native Galicia, and the threads of past memories begin to be woven together. This poetic and moving novel conveys the horror and savagery of the tragedy that divided Spain, and the experiences of the men and women who lived through it. Yet in the process, it also relates one of the most beautiful love stories imaginable.

Biography

Manuel Rivas was born in Coruña in 1957, and writes in the Galician language of north-west Spain. He is well known for his journalism, as well as for his prizewinning short stories and novels, which include the internationally acclaimed The Carpenter's Pencil and Books Burn Badly. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages.