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The Selected Stories of Merce Rodoreda by…
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The Selected Stories of Merce Rodoreda

by Mercè Rodoreda

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The first two melancholy representations of women defined entirely by their relationships to men depressed me, so I skipped to the last story, ‘White Geranium’. Again there is a helpless woman, but this time there is a male narrator so subsumed by jealousy that he tortures his wife in her dying days so that she will die quicker. It’s quite horrible: he won’t let her change her clothes and he blows a stolen trumpet in her ears to disrupt her sleep. But after she dies he dresses her in the pink dress that she made to make Cosme, his boss, fall in love with her. He desecrates her body in other ways too, including breaking off a tooth which he uses to tease the cat that Cosme had given her. The story then weaves into dark symbolism with magical elements. Horrible as it is, and though again it features a woman with no agency, it’s a much better story than the first two, which seem quite ordinary to me and notable only for the old-fashioned helplessness of the women. It’s this story which makes the helplessness make sense…

*lightbulb moment in Lisa’s brain*

Spain was helpless under the iron rule of General Franco for generations, from 1939 to 1975. The Spouse tells a story from when he was living in the inner suburbs about how the streets erupted into celebratory dance and song from former Spanish refugees when Franco died. Like present day North Koreans enduring a merciless rule, there was nothing they could do except wait for deliverance or to escape. So Rodoreda’s stories of women with no volition can be read as an analogy for her country in submission to a tyrant, under constant surveillance, fantasising about a future that can only be hastened by violence, and desecrated by one so desperate to cling to power that he destroys the thing he loves.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/07/16/the-selected-stories-of-merce-rodoreda-translated-by-martha-tennent/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Jul 15, 2017 |
It’s been a while since I finished The Selected Stories of Merce Rodoreda, published by Open Letter Books, so details of individual stories are a little hazy, but overall, the collection impressed me. The stories are full of drama and passion, not at all like the quiet stories with small epiphanies that you find so often in American short fiction. I like quiet stories as well, but it was a nice change to have more action, more bright, vibrant characters and overpowering emotions.

Rodoreda is a Catalan writer who died in 1983; these stories come from three collections published in 1958, 1978, and one that (as far as I can tell) was collected after her death. These stories are published in chronological order, and become more experimental toward the end, moving toward a more impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness style. I was less taken with these stories than with the more realistic ones, but it was interesting to see her moving in new directions and experimenting with new styles.

Read the rest of the review at Of Books and Bicycles.
1 vote rhussey174 | Apr 7, 2011 |
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