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Els sots feréstecs by Raimon Casellas
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Els sots feréstecs

by Raimon Casellas

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262415,071 (3.83)2
  1. 00
    Tales and More Tales from Mountain (From the Portuguese S.) by Miguel Torga (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: Both books are dark accounts of unpleasant inhabitants of isolated and poverty-ridden mountain hamlets. Torga's stories aren't the nightmare that Cassellas' novel is but nonetheless they were banned in Portugal on account of their bleakness.
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It's hard to imagine a novel bleaker than this. The setting is harsh and claustrophobic; the weather is oppressive and destructive; the peasants are unreasoning and brutish; the protagonist finds himself falling from brisk optimism into anguish and thence into despair.

Father Llatzar has offended his superiors and is transferred to an isolated parish in the Pyrenees, where he does his utmost to bring to its inhabitants spiritual sustenance but is thwarted repeatedly by nearly mute stubbornness and a numb indifference relieved only occasionally by flashes of greed, envy, and malevolence.

My thoughts about the novel are scattered ones, most likely because I'm still rather overpowered by its atmosphere. In any case, restoring life is a recurring theme in it--the revival of the teachings of an unnamed philosopher, the restoration of the dilapidated church, the various attempts to bring the peasants back to true Christianity. In the end there is indeed a sort of resurrection but it's a ghastly one. Something that disturbed me much less, and in an altogether different way, was that in portraying his characters Casellas stacked the deck a bit too much for my taste; I doubt it was his intention to lend them great depth--given that the book was written at the turn of the last century it's quite possible that they were symbols only--but the peasants' surly silence, their joylessness, their complete lack of fellow-feeling were almost unrelieved and demand a tauter than usual suspension of disbelief. As indeed does the prostitute who settles in the parish and who seems as much Pied Piper as femme fatale. (Fr Llatzar and his servants are a bit less one-dimensional though, and that a reader can't determine the extent to which the former's efforts are the result of vanity rather than spirituality is a nice touch.)

Ever since reading The Yellow Rain and, especially, C.-F. Ramuz I've been on the lookout for fiction dealing with isolated mountain settlements. I'm terribly pleased that I learned about this one and I certainly recommend it but be warned that it's a sojourn in Hell and not a visit to Heidi.
1 vote bluepiano | Feb 10, 2015 |
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