Manuel is growing up in Franco's Spain. He adores his elder sister, María, and they are watched over by their mother, who enjoys reciting poetry, and their father, a construction worker with vertigo. Beyond the walls of the house, he encounters chatty hairdressers and priests, wolf hunters and monstrous carnival effigies.
The community is still haunted by the civil war, yet Manuel's world is changing. Coca-Cola opens a factory nearby and news arrives of men landing on the moon. This is a story about family, memory and the experiences that make us who we are.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Manuel Rivas was born in A Coruña in 1957. He writes in the Galician language of north-west Spain. He is well known in Spain for his journalism, as well as for his prize-winning short stories and novels, which include the internationally acclaimed The Carpenter's Pencil and Books Burn Badly. His most recent novel, All is Silence, will be published in English in 2013. His works have been translated into twenty languages.