From Publishers Weekly
Available in English for the first time in the U.S., Laforet's moody and sepulchral debut novel, a 1945 Spanish cult classic, has been given new life by acclaimed translator Grossman. The story follows 18-year-old Andrea as she spends a year with crazy relatives in a squalid, ramshackle townhouse on Calle de Aribau in post-Civil War Barcelona. Although Andrea is young, she isn't adventurous or carefree like others her age, and much of the action takes place within her extended family's dank flat or along the melancholic city streets immediately surrounding it. But the narrative is no less interesting because of this, as it leaves plenty of room for the larger-than-life characters that occupy the house to fully flex their gross vitality and charming decrepitude. The violent Uncle Juan and his manic wife, Aunt Gloria; the crusty, devilish, magnetic violinist, Uncle Román; insanely embittered Aunt Angustias; and an oblivious, antiquated grandmother each offer up their own chaotic storylines, while perfectly balancing Andrea's stoic, ruminative personality. To compliment their frenetic vignettes, Andrea's narration is gorgeously expressive, rippling with emotion and meaning. U.S.-bound fans of European lit will welcome this Spanish Gothic to the States with open arms and a half-exasperated, "What took you so long?"
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is a novel of Spainand of the difficult transition to adulthood. Critics agree that it is a remarkable achievement for so young a voice at the time and one of the best novels written during the Franco regime. Mario Vargas Llosa notes in his introduction that Nada
never overtly refers to the Fascist victory, yet "politics weighs on the entire story like an ominous silence." Still, Andrea's grim experiencesfrom navigating the bizarre terrain of her relatives to brokering friendships and sexual relationshipsare far from humorless. Brilliant characterizations, poetic prose, and a clear and sophisticated voice ring true in Edith Grossman's excellent translation. The Los Angeles Times
sums up general sentiment: "Nada
a coming-of-age novel, but it's also a work of genius, small but indelible."Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.