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.
It's time for reviewers and sundry pundits to quit the flattering comparisons with Lorca, Joyce and Garcia Marquez. Manuel Rivas reads like no-one else on the planet...one of those novels to lavish on friends... Manuel Rivas' sweeping novel, translated into English for the first time, is an undoubted classic
This is an exceptional book by an exceptional writer... a unique literary enterprise
A novelistic tour-de-force...hauntingly poetic use of language and light touch...Rivas never loses faith in the human ability to overcome the bleakest of situations
His most substantial work to date
His boldest take yet on the war's repercussions in his native Galicia... a work of unusual beauty