Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Bal masque by Elia Barceló

Bal masque (2004)

by Elia Barceló

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1205100,400 (3.76)2

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 2 mentions

Dutch (4)  English (1)  All (5)
I initially picked this up because of the opening pages, which I immediately suspected were a homage to the beginning of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca ("Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."). And Du Maurier's novel is, I think, ultimately a helpful point of comparison. The novel does not (fortunately) attempt to imitate Rebecca, but the way it builds its narrative effect is similar: through the gradual revealing of secrets from the past, the enormous power of one person to affect lives in the present even from the grave, the sense of inevitability of events driven by nearly irresistable passions.

In brief (although I don't want to give away too much of the plot): The scholar Ariel Lenormand travels to Paris to research the biography of Raúl de la Torre, a by all accounts brilliant writer who published two novels in the 1970s which made him famous overnight; a decade later, after the mysterious death of his second wife in an automobile accident, he fell madly in love with a young man and publicly declared his homosexuality, but this affair was cut short by the young man’s death from AIDS and Raúl committed suicide shortly thereafter. These basic facts are clear. But Ariel is confronted by dark spaces in Raúl’s biography which he hopes to resolve with the help of the two people who knew Raúl best: his first wife Amelia and his publisher André. Amelia turns out to be cagey and resistant to the intrusion into her past, André is haunted in his own way by Raúl’s memory, and Ariel soon begins making discoveries which suggest that Raúl may have had major secrets that even those closest to him were unaware of.

In other words, this is a literary thriller of the sort that has become popular in recent years. The underlying premise is essentially the same as, for example, A.S. Byatt's Possession. In fact, it reminded me quite a bit of Possession--again, not in a derivative sense, but rather because it has the same sense of the investigation taking on a life of its own and capturing all those involved within its spell, and of completely unexpection passions being unleashed.

Unlike Possession, or Carlos Ruiz Zafón's Shadow of the Wind (the other comparison that springs to mind here), which stay in the narrative “present” as the protagonist unravels the past, so that the reader’s knowledge is limited to what the protagonist knows, this novel jumps back and forth between past and present, between Ariel’s investigations and Amelia’s memories. At first I doubted the effectiveness of this narrative choice, but in the course of the novel the reasons for the choice became clear: we, the readers, are gradually able to assemble all the pieces of the puzzle, but the characters cannot; to the very end, each of them only has a partial view of events: what really happened on the day Raúl’s second wife died, why he married her in the first place when it was clear he never loved her, and why he never wrote more than two novels. Raúl’s shadow lies heavy over all the characters, and their memories are often painful. As we gradually come to understand the scars they bear and the misunderstandings that have shaped their lives, we also understand their reasons for choosing to remain silent.

Although the suspense of the story depends on the plot (or rather, our process of piecing it together), it is the characters and the psychological drama that ultimately make the novel successful. It’s not perfect--a few of the discoveries are a bit too coincidental to be plausible--but nonetheless an effective portrayal of a group of people whose lives have all been permanently marked by one man (he left his brand on them, like horses, to mark his ownership, one of the characters muses at one point). And it is a reminder of how we all create our own stories of the past, stories that are incomplete and distorted by our wishes and fears, and what happens when these stories are called into question.

(Read in a German translation by Stefanie Gerhold.)
  spiphany | Jul 6, 2017 |
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elia Barcelóprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gerhold, StefanieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Horst, Dorothea terTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Gestern nacht bin ich im Traum in die Wohnung in der Rue de Belleville zurückgekehrt.
Last words
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original language
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

No library descriptions found.

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
1 wanted1 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.76)
2 3
3 6
3.5 4
4 9
5 7

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 119,632,250 books! | Top bar: Always visible