“Reading [this novel] is like eating hallucenogenic mushrooms” is the byline for Josep Lambies’ review of El desertor en el camp de batalla [The deserter in the battlefield] by Julià de Jodar, pusblished on Sept. 9, 2013, in Timeout Barcelona.
The publisher presents the book roughly like this:
“In this exuberant and humoristic novel we get to know a fat, very fat man who observes the world from a dovecote. He is often visitedy by a writer who wants to write a ‘high quality bestseller’. While one evokes the disappeared son, the other drags along a semi-transparent mystery; and they both end up appearing the other’s projection. In between as a mediator the thin man. Also the old Montoya and his granddaughter Alicia, in love with the butcher Karim. In the background the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona, lively and pulsing, populated by unfathomable personalities … Hyperrealistic and fantastic at the same time, this novel proposes to the reader playing the game of opening boxes, and taking them out, one out of the other, intrigued by the stories that ‘step on each other’s heels’ and lucidly portray our dislocated era. A visionary book by a writer in a state of grace who makes an unashamed use of all genres.”
Some of the main characters, e.g. Ximo Ximoi and Gabriel Caballero, already have appeared in other of Julià de Jodar’s novels. A central theme is the observation of the outside world; the “outside” in this case being Barcelona’s Raval neighborhood, formerly also known as barri xino [“Chinatown”], today home to a varied, mainly immigrant community, a lot of them of Pakistani origin.
“It’s a novel made of repaired rags, a sizzling mix of restless stories and anarchic voices that run like a thread into infinity.” (J. Lambies)
According to the Wikipedia article, Julià de Jodar Muñoz (Badalona, 1942) is a Catalan writer who grew up in the Gorg district of Badalona. He graduated first as a techno-chemical engineer in 1964, and then studied humanities. In 1973 he received a degree in modern and contemporary history. He also studied drama at the Escola d’Art Dramàtic [“Dramatic Arts School”] of Adrià Gual. His most important work is called L’atzar i les ombres [Chance and the shadows], a trilogy made up of the novels L’àngel de la segona mort [The angel of the second death], El trànsit de les fades [The fairies’ transit] and El metall impur [The impure metall]. In 2009 he received for his novel Pastoral catalana [Catalan pastoral], a kind of tribute to the writer Philip Roth and his novel American Pastoral, the Carlemany Prize of the government of Andorra. He writes for different regional print and online media and was a candidate to the Catalan parliament for a an “anti-establishment” movement.
Julià de Jòdar translated two novels by E.L. Doctorow into Catalan, but none of his work has been translated into English.