Posted by: biblioglobal | July 24, 2015

Spain: Stone in a Landslide (Book-from-every-country #69)

Stones in a Landslide by Maria Barbal.

Stone in a Landslide by Maria Barbal. Translated from the Catalan by Laura McGloughlin and Paul Mitchell.

The first part of Stone in a Landslide by Maria Barbal reminded me a bit of all the pioneer girl books* I enjoyed growing up- descriptions of the hard work, farming, family, rural life.  It startled me a bit then,  when larger events started to intrude on that world. Even then however, it was really the voice of the narrator that was most striking about the book.

(Okay, and now I feel kind of stupid, because I just realized the  blurb in the front of the book starts with the statement, “I fell in love with Conxa’s narrative voice”. Well, I guess I agree!)

I had other books I intended to read for Spain, but decided to switch my plans after reading Claire’s review at Word by Word. Plus this was a Peirene Press book, and I loved the only other book of theirs I have read (The Mussel Feast) so much that I was excited to try another one.  I might be tempted to sign up for their subscription in the future…

Another aspect of the book that was interesting to me was that it was originally written not in Spanish, but in Catalan. I thought it would be nice to read something written in a minority language.  Despite that, when I was reading, knowing that the book was set in Spain, I must somehow have been assuming that it was written in Spanish, because when Conxa started describing how she didn’t learn much in school because school was taught in Spanish I was confused. It took me a few moments to remember that the narrator spoke Catalan and not Spanish.

Interestingly, the book I read after this one, By Night the Mountain Burns from Equatorial Guinea, was translated from Spanish. Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, is the only Spanish speaking country in Africa. The narrator in that book didn’t grow up speaking Spanish either and he too complained that he didn’t learn much in school because it was taught in Spanish.

I’m going to leave it there because I’m way behind on writing about the books I’ve read (Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Somalia and Trinidad and Tobago are all awaiting my attention). I’m hoping by writing fairly short bits about each I can get caught up!

Also, it’s not quite August yet, but you could consider this an early entry for Women in Translation month. (Does it count towards this year’s theme of classics? Well, it was published in 1985, but the back of the book calls it a “Catalan modern classic”, so… maybe?)

*A bit of a tangent: It occurred to me while reading Stones in a Landslide that pioneer girl books are probably a very American genre. And that maybe pioneer girl books occupy a similar place as the girl’s boarding school book does in England, a genre that we are very lacking in her in the U.S.


  1. Sounds good, thanks for the review!

  2. So happy to hear you enjoyed this wonderful novella, I could have read so much more about her, especially towards the end when everything changes.

    It was interesting that not long after reading this I then read Julio Llamazares absolutley wonderful book The Yellow Rain, which is exatly that, all about the end of life, an old man up in one of the Spanish Pyrenees villages, abandoned now by everyone, just he and his dog remain. I found it mesmerizing. They are great companion books these two, some great gems to be found in Spain.

    Thank you so much for the mention.

    • Yes, The Yellow Rain does sound interesting too! Also, it is translated by Margaret Jull Costa, who I thought did an amazing job translating the Jose Saramago book I read. You are such a great source for books I want to read!

  3. Are we really lacking in boarding school books? I’ve read plenty 😉 but I guess I am an anglophile. It was fascinating learning all about Catalan history and language this summer.

    • I should probably read a bit about Catalan history. The book doesn’t directly teach any history, I think knowing some would probably add to the reading experience.

      There are American books set in boarding schools, but I don’t think we have the ‘girls boarding school book’ as a genre. When I went to England as a kid, I discovered all these book series about girls’ boarding schools, like Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series, which are completely absent in the U.S.

  4. The book sounds great and I am intrigued by the way you say it reminds you of pioneer girl stories. I do think you are probably right about pioneer girl stories being a very American genre. While I enjoy a good girls boarding school book it is not an experience the vast majority of American girls even have which makes it so fascinating. But between the two, I’ll take the pioneer girls stories 🙂

    • I would hate to have to choose to between them, I love them both! I do agree that my enjoyment of the boarding school books is partially because boarding school just seems so exotic to me. Though arguably I am just as unfamiliar with the life of a pioneer girl.

  5. […] Stone in a Landslide, it is the narrative voice that is really memorable about By Night the Mountain Burns.  The […]

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