Rafael Chirbes, Writer of the present Spain, Dies at Age 66

Rafael Chirbes (Tavernes de la Valldigna, 1949 – 2015) died on August 15 from lung cancer. He had been successful since the publication of Crematorio [crematorium] in 2007, and his last novel, En la orilla [cf. this post] in 2013 earned him a number of prizes.

“Even though he disliked to be labeled as the novelist of the economic crisis, in his latest works he reflected the social, economic and political disorder created by the urban building pitch. In his books there are portrayed the mafia practices of businessman and politicians, that mix with the bitter discomfort of friendships that break up due to power and money. Of leftist ideology, Chirbes lived dedicated to writing, secluded in the small village of Beniarbeig (Alicante), together with his two dogs. The noise of the media frightened him and he friendly declined to comment ‘on anything’, as he had been asked to since the success of his latest books.”

Ferran Bono, Tereixa Constenla, El País

The Guardian had this to say on Crematorio in 2011 (“What they are reading in Spain”):

“The darkest part of history . . . or of the present, like the town-planning corruption along the Spanish coastline and more specifically on the east coast (Valencia and Alicante). This mafia world with a dash of Spanish picaresque served as inspiration for Rafael Chirbes, one of the most remarkable authors on the Spanish scene, in his book Crematorio (Anagrama), which has also returned to the limelight thanks to a new TV series on Canal Plus.”

The publication of a now posthumous novel, París-Austerlitz, is foreseen for early 2016.

Amazon.com announces the translation of Chirbes’ En la orilla [On the edge] by Margaret Jull Costa for January 2016:

“On the Edge opens with the discovery of a rotting corpse in the marshes on the outskirts of Olba, Spain―a town wracked by despair after the burst of the economic bubble, and a microcosm of a world of defeat, debt, and corruption. Stuck in this town is Esteban―his small factory bankrupt, his investments stolen by a “friend,” and his unloved father, a mute invalid, entirely his personal burden. Much of the novel unfolds in Esteban’s raw and tormented monologues. But other voices resound from the wreckage―soloists stepping forth from the choir―and their words, sharp as knives, crowd their terse, hypnotic monologues of ruin, prostitution, and loss.

Chirbes alternates this choir of voices with a majestic third-person narration, injecting a profound and moving lyricism and offering the hope that a new vitality can emerge from the putrid swamps. On the Edge, even as it excoriates, pulsates with robust life, and its rhythmic, torrential style marks the novel as an indelible masterpiece.”

SOURCE: El País, August 16, 2015; The Guardian, March 28, 2011

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