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A Manuscript of Ashes Hardcover – August 4, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


PRAISE FOR SEPHARAD "Shame and guilt, homelands and exile, ceaseless wanderings and bitter alienations both internal and external, metaphorical and real, are persistent motifs of Muñoz Molina’s remarkable novel—one that turns out to be about a territory far vaster than 'Sepharad' itself: Europe, perhaps even the world . . . [A] masterpiece."—Daniel Mendelsohn, The New York Review of Books

"A magnificent novel about the iniquity and horror of fanaticism, and especially the human being's indestructible spirit."—Mario Vargas Llosa

"This is a brilliant novel by an important writer unafraid of ideas, emotions and genuine beauty. ''A Manuscript of Ashes'' could be pleasurably read out of appreciation for any one of those qualities-- or, perhaps, for the intricately plotted mystery that bears the novel''s characters along like travelers on a dark, treacherous river." (Tim Rutten Los Angeles Times 2008-09-02)

"[R]apturously Gothic...The book is written in incantatory run-on sentences, intoxicated with sensual details...The past, Mr. Munoz Molina implies, is never as dead as we think, and the stories it tells us are never free of hidden agendas." (Adam Kirsch New York Sun 2008-08-01)

"In 2003, the acclaimed Spanish writer and journalist Antonio Munoz Molina took the English-speaking world by storm with the translation of his work ''Sepharad.'' Now Anglophone readers will get to revel anew in Munoz Molina''s sensual prose and fluid plotlines with the translation of his first novel." (Newsweek 2008-09-15)

"Antonio Munoz Molina''s latest beautifully wrought novel, ''A Manuscript of Ashes'', is set in Franco-era Spain and tells the story of a young university student, Minaya, who retreats to his uncle Manuel''s mansion in the countryside to write a thesis on a neglected poet the old man once knew. As the plot progresses, Minaya uncovers a startling truth about the relationship between the men, and the story darkens into a meta-mystery. Molina writes in big, fat paragraphs and the kind of lush sentences that can bear the scrutiny usually reserved for poems." (New York Magazine 2008-08-20)

"[A]compulsively re-readable novel (which has been splendidly translated by Edith Grossman)...The insistence on the primacy of the invisible reckoning, as opposed to the outwardly visible action, gives...this novel an unsinkable power." (Christopher Byrd Barnes & Noble.com 2008-09-15)

"Intense, kaleidoscopic....the narrative speeds along on the strength of the spell it weaves." (www.mostlyfiction.com 2008-08-18)

"[I]ts enigmatic melancholy offers rewards." (Christian Science Monitor 2008-09-05)

"Already a contemporary classic, this work...is an enigmatic gem in the very best metafiction tradition." (Library Journal 2008-04-01)

About the Author

ANTONIO MUÑOZ MOLINA has twice been awarded the Premio Nacional de Literatura in Spain in addition to winning the Prix Femina in France. He lives in Madrid and New York.

EDITH GROSSMAN is the acclaimed translator of, among others, Cervantes, Gabriel García Márquez, and Mario Vargas Llosa. in 2006 she was awarded the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (August 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151014108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151014101
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #961,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
(4.5 stars) The Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939) and the subsequent dictatorship of General Francisco Franco form the underpinning of this hypnotic novel, which is simultaneously a love story, a story about political and personal aspirations, and a story about writing and the creative process. In a narrative that swirls through time and place, often turning in upon itself and revisiting earlier events from different points of view, life during the tumultuous Civil War unfolds and is carried forward for more than thirty years of Franco's harsh dictatorship.

When the book opens in 1969, Minaya, a university student, has just been released from detention for his part in a student demonstration. Seeking refuge in Magina, where his elderly uncle lives, Minaya intends to search for the missing masterwork of a little known poet named Jacinto Solana and to write his doctoral thesis on Solana in the seclusion of the countryside. His uncle Manuel and Solana were childhood friends, and both had been in love with the same woman, Mariana Rios, an artist's model.

As the story flashes back to 1936 - 37, the complex relationship of Manuel, Solana, and Mariana unfolds. Mariana, we learn at the beginning of the novel, was shot to death, supposedly by a stray bullet fired through the window on her wedding night, during the earliest days of the Spanish Civil War. Manuel never recovered, closing their nuptial bedroom and living as a recluse. Solana, a Communist, endured ten years of political detention and torture before returning to Manuel's house in Magina. When Minaya arrives to stay with his uncle, Solana is already dead, according to his friends, shot by government troops, his papers burned, and his masterpiece, Beatus Ille, missing.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Alan A. Elsner VINE VOICE on May 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
There's something hypnotic about the long, languid sentences that make up this book and that force the reader to pay attention to every nuance and every metaphor because within the serpentine alleys of the writer's prose lurk all kinds of mysteries and clues, which may or may not be true.

The book is set in Franco-era Spain and tells the story of a young university student, Minaya, who retreats to his uncle Manuel's mansion in an ancient city called Magina to write the biography of Jacinto Solana, a neglected poet the old man once knew. He quickly finds himself delving into a curious love triangle, while falling under the spell of a mysterious serving girl who works in the mansion.

The book darts back and forth in time from the years before the war to the the war itself to its bitter aftermath, sometimes changing time within the same paragraph. The effect is to produce a dreamlike narrative where nothing is quite what is seems and nobody can be trusted.

The cast of characters also includes a pro-fascist sculptor who mass produces saints, the bitter old Dona of the household, a gay artist, Solana's stern father, a proud peasant farmer, his Communist lover and other assorted types. I wish I knew more about the Civil War because I take this book partly as an allegory about the fate of Spain during those tragic years. Clearly the author has no sympathies with the fascists but he is equally stern about the Republicans. In one scene, a suspected Falangist spy is lynched in the town's main square. The message seems to be that whereas the right was bathed in butchery, the left also suffered a grievous moral failing.

Minaya uncovers a startling secret and the story becomes a weird mystery story.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Christ on April 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Search amazon.com for this great novel and you will first come upon "A Manuscript of Ashes by Antonio Muñoz Molina and Edith Grossman (Aug 4, 2008)," a proper and innovative listing. Congratulations to amazon! For English-language readers, Edith Grossman is the proximate author, the translator who writes the sentences previous amazon reviewers justly praise but do not mention, do not credit. Edith Grossman is the collaborating author, the translator into English, of some of the best books in English and not recognizing her work diminishes the stretch of out literature, its length and breadth. Besides, in 2010 Grossman's translation of Muñoz Molina's novel won the first Queen Sophia Spanish Institute Prize for Literary Translation--a premier award for a premier translator. The establishment of this prize, itself an historic literary event, could not have fulfilled itself with a better book. Read this unforgettable novel, which will linger in your mind as meditative movie takes, and enjoy two authors, two literatures at their height.A Manuscript of Ashes
Ronald Christ
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James W. Fonseca on November 17, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
A retrospective novel of the Spanish Civil War. A young man in the 1980’s comes to a small town in Spain to write a dissertation about an obscure novelist and poet who was active in and died in the Civil War. The chapters alternate between the present and the past. The young man is living at his uncle’s house, who was best friends with the author, and his affair with one of the maids. This is a “book about books” and a lot like the Shadow of the Wind or The Angel’s Game (both also translated from the Spanish as is this work) or Night Train to Lisbon. We have our classic gaunt, sleepless, chain smoking, hollow-eyed novelist. And a beautiful, haunting woman who has two men who love her and she loves them both. The author weaves a mystery about a missing manuscript and a bride who was killed on her wedding night by random shot through a window from Civil War combatants. But if that’s how she was killed, why does someone preserve a bullet cartridge that was found in the room? There is much good writing. The novelist says of his father, a peasant, “The war?” he said looking around, as if when he didn’t see its traces on the peaceful cultivated earth and in the irrigation ditches he might think I was lying to him.” Or “…perhaps hearing her own voice like the pale shouts in dreams, because the sound of the water erased it, and it vanished in the brilliance of the moon and in the warped spaces of the olive groves and the liquid blue sierra, as weightless and extended as the fog.”
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