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The Mule by Juan Eslava Galan

The Mule (2003)

by Juan Eslava Galan

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Courtney Russell:

Only a Spaniard can laugh in the face of war, poking fun at the absurdity of it all—as this Spanish author illustrates in his own inimitable style. The main character, Juan Castro Pérez, is a muleteer, or mule driver, in the Spanish Civil War. His closest companion is a mule named Valentina who Juan intends on keeping after the war is over to help his family on the farm. Apparently, Galán loosely based The Mule on the experiences of his own father during the war. Remember, the Spanish Civil War pitted the Nationalists (fascists) against the Republicans and ushered in the Franco regime in 1939. Amazingly, just sixty-eight years ago, this was a war in which brothers and friends fought against one another. Juan experiences several picaresque adventures including changing allegiances during the war, starting a misguided relationship with a girl, and becoming a reluctant, unwitting war hero. As I read, I thought “only in Spain can a soldier switch sides without penalty!” This engaging “dramedy” highlights the tragedy, banality, and toll of the war, without losing its satirical edge. And although cowardly, Juan is a good-hearted, humble man, and you’ll come to love him and his mule—rooting for them to make it through the brutal war.
Special note: The Mule is soon to be a major motion picture directed by Michael Radford (Il Postino).
1 vote RHLibrary | Jan 30, 2008 |
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Juan Castro Perez, corporal muleteer of the Third Battalion of the Canaries Falange, third company, is hunting for wild asparagus in the brush.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553385089, Paperback)

Critically acclaimed throughout Spain, and now available for the first time in English, this tender, satirical novel vividly captures the intrinsic absurdity of war—and the joys of true friendship in a place where it is difficult to distinguish man from beast.

Juan Castro Pérez is a simple muleteer caught in the brutal Spanish Civil War. Never far from his closest companion—a stray mule named Valentina whom he is determined to keep for himself after the war—Juan engages in the low-brow drinking escapades, long shots at love, and an otherwise droning existence shared by his compatriots.

As he lies, cheats, and steals to protect Valentina during his improbable odyssey home, Juan unwittingly “fights” for both sides—and becomes a reluctant and unlikely hero of the people, exploited by opportunistic journalists desperately trying to convince the Spanish public that the war is under control, when it is anything but….

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:00 -0400)

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