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Carpenter's Pencil Paperback – January 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage/Ebury (a Division of Random; New edition edition (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099448467
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099448464
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,985,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dr. Daniel Da Barca is a Republican hero of the Spanish Civil War, an almost folkloric figure at the center of this lyrical though frequently impenetrable import. His story is related, in the spirit of Cervantes's Exemplary Tales, in a bar, by a Galician brothel keeper to a favorite whore. Da Barca's politics and philosophy stem from what his teacher, Dr. N¢voa Santos, calls "the theory of intelligent reality" that irony and lyricism are organic parts of the human condition. Even before Franco's uprising, Da Barca's movements were tracked by a soldier named Herbal a man who conceals his moral susceptibility beneath a shell of brutality. In the first days of the war, Da Barca, along with other Republican notables, is imprisoned in Santiago. One of his fellow prisoners is a painter who is taken out and killed by a group including Herbal. On the way back, Herbal, who has picked up the carpenter's pencil that the painter had been using in prison, hears a voice in his head it is the voice of the deceased, who makes Herbal into the unwilling vessel of Da Barca's salvation. Twice Da Barca is taken out to be shot, and twice he is saved by Herbal, who later arranges for the doctor's transfer from the harsh prison at Coru¤a to the less rigorous camp at Porta Coeli, from which he manages to direct a Republican resistance group. Although Rivas's (Butterfly's Tongue) highly charged language is sometimes excessive and the narrative convoluted, his instinctive balancing of Da Barca's heroism against Herbal's brutish plebian consciousness creates a work of endearing nobility that will reward the patience of what is likely to be a very small American audience.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Set in Galicia during the Spanish Civil War, this novel tells the story of Dr. Daniel Da Barca, who twice miraculously escapes death in front of the firing squad only to be given life imprisonment, a sentence that is later commuted. The principal narrator, though, is Herbal, the guard who escorts Da Barca during his various incarcerations. The third major character is Marisa Mallo, whose marriage by proxy to the doctor is ultimately consummated with Herbal's assistance. Ironically, the ubiquitous role of the painter ("He's the one who paints the ideas") is mostly symbolic. Rivas leaps across time zones and switches narrative voice. Yet with minimal description he masterfully sketches, for example, the hopeless atmosphere of the dank prison with a few brushstrokes, as if he held the titular pencil. And for a novel set during wartime to convince us of the doom and despair of conflict without a single battle scene is admirable indeed. This British-slanted translation marks the first American appearance of this up-and-coming Spanish author. Recommended. Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on July 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"The Carpenter's Pencil", is a wonderful short novel. There are times it becomes a bit confusing to track who or what is relating the story. However the small amount of time invested to sort out the voices is more than well rewarded. The book also contained something I had not seen before. There were two poems referenced in the book, and they were included in their entirety in appendices. One is from the 19th and the other the 13th Century. It was a pleasant change to be able to read the entire poems rather than be limited to excerpts in the main text.
There are about 8-10 different players that appear. The number arrived at depends on how much you feel a character must contribute, and how they make that contribution. Must a person be present in the flesh, or can they continue to influence events after death? The book begins in a contemporary setting and then quickly returns to the story of the man a reporter has come to interview. This is when the book really shines with a love story and an unlikely cast that make the union of the two lovers possible.
The primary tale of memory takes place just before, through, and finally after Franco's rule over Spain has ended. This end allows for some who were forced to flee to return home, a home that they fought for and were punished by. The brief work is really very good, for while it is brief it conveys a story that feels almost epic in its tightly written and intricate prose.
A bit of effort to be sure you have the voices sorted out, and you will enjoy a wonderful novella.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Joaquin Gonzalez on March 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
REimagining human generosity and love in times of war. A novel, already a classic in Spanish Literature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mary Brooks on June 7, 2012
Format: Paperback
From the opening sentence I guessed this book would take me on a roller-coaster ride. I know little about the Spanish Civil War but feel that in its sparse and spartan phrasing I have learned a lot from this book. The contradictory nature of the main speaker, Herbal, his mix of brutality and sharp observation is elegantly handled. His conscience is haunted by the ghost of the painter he has killed and whose carpenter's pencil he keeps, leads him to rescue the mythical figure of Daniel de Barca despite the fact he seems to be in love with his beautiful wife, Marisa. The medical terms are beautifully developed into metaphor for the sickness of the civil war and for mortality and the blackbirds of the first line sing intermittently throughout the book. I especially enjoyed the pared-back style, switches in time and voice and this left me with many questions - so I turned the book back to the beginning and re-read it, catching things I had at first missed.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
There are as many Galicians abroad as in Spain. So now that we see one of our writers translated directly from our language into English, our pride gets a special boost. With Rivas, our literature has found its own boom. He gives a new insight to our culture, our language, and our traditions. Thanks, Jonathan Dunne, for a job well done! Graciñas, Manuel, for helping us in learning about ourselves!
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