|When I Sing, Mountains Dance / Irene Sola
trans. from the Catalan by Mara Faye Lethem
Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf Press, 2022, c2019.
Here's another book I picked up after some recommendations in last year's WIT Month. It's a wild read, so inventive in narrative choices that I had to read carefully.
It begins in the Pyrenees, with a man going out to gather mushrooms and check on his cows, but there is a storm raging. He is hit by lightning, and the narrative is told from the point of view of the storm. Then by the three ghostly witches who come across him and take the mushrooms he had gathered. Then by the mountains, some deer, his widow, her children, and more.
You will be getting the sense by now that this is an unusual story. However, it's not too experimental to understand -- there is a through-line, and all the separate stories combine to create a rich image of this small countryside village, the people there and their ancient beliefs. It's quite an orchestral effect.
It's difficult to describe this one, but it contains many stories of different people, both tragic and gentle. It's a bit hard to grasp at times; I wasn't sure if these three witches were real, imaginary, or ghosts, for a while, and had to flip back a couple of times to keep straight who it was that was talking.
But the language is so beautiful and full of poetry and imagery, even if it's bleak at times. And there is a sense of time that permeates the book. It's a book to throw yourself into, immerse yourself in the writing and just go with it.
The author is also a visual artist, and a poet, and I think that way of looking at the world comes through in this unique novel. If you want to explore this part of the world with a compelling story, I'd say give this one a try. There are some beautiful moments, and some sad ones, and it's a satisfying read as a whole.