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Novel set in Central SPAIN

8th July 2024

Far by Rosa Ribas, novel set in Central Spain.

TR: Charlotte Coombe.

Novel set in Central SPAIN

The book was inspired by a housing estate called Seseña, which was one of the examples of the consequences of the “brick boom” and it is located in the province of Toledo, Castilla–La Mancha, about 40km from Madrid.

Anyone who has been to Spain can’t help but notice a glut of urbanizaciónes that have been started in the last few decades but now lie abandoned. This story takes you to somewhere outside Madrid – Residential Fernando Pacheco – which is part buil,t but clearly works have stalled, leaving homeowners and renters in the middle of a wasteland. The compound is far from the local established town, reliant on its promised luxury facilities, shops and infrastructure and in the midst of this, there is a group of people trying to make the best of a bad job.

Unlike abandoned old villages, it was impossible to find beauty in these ruins, in the unfinished brick and concrete structures, building materials strewn all over the place, weeds, rubbish, dirty surfaces daubed sun-bleached graffiti, some of which the rain had caused to sag like old tattoos….”

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Novel set in Central SPAINA motley and disparate collection of people are assembled on the residential development, some there legally, others have a more interloper status. The novel opens with an unidentified man making his way to an apartment and the descriptions of the this bleak and abandoned place are terrifically captured. As a read you cannot help but be sucked into this arid and soulless place, as people move through the scattered structures on a zombie landscape. There is humour, with acute and relatable observation, which really carries the novel along. There are interesting characters, who pop up and make this feel like a living and breathing residential complex, surrounded by half built properties and building debris, with an unforgiving terrain beyond the high fences. Outside, everything is wild…

And then the story gets darker as inhabitants get together for a fiesta and espy real or imagined illegals – are their minds working overtime, is the setting causing a degree of paranoia? There is a burgeoning love story and tension as someone sneaks around the buildings, living there incognito, dodging curious eyes. At this point the novel reaches a plateau, where it loses its way a little.

The writing and translation work really well. The first third has an alacrity and lightness of touch but as things start to shift, the tone becomes more lugubrious which isn’t quite as engaging but mirrors the plot development.

This novel has an unusual premise at its heart and it is overall a good and worthwhile read. The translation works very well.

Tina for the Tripfiction Team

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