Epiphany, 6 January, the “day of the Kings” to Spaniards, is the day when the Nadal [Catalan – “Christmas”] book prize is awarded by the publisher Destino (Planeta group). In 2016, in its 72nd edition the award went to Víctor del Árbol (Barcelona, 1968) for La víspera de casi todo [The eve of nearly everything].
The novel’s protagonist is an upper-class woman, Paola, who flees from her past. Her flight leads her to a village of the Costa da Morte [Death coast] in Galicia. There there meet a series of characters that also flee from a past that is too present and from which they cannot escape. According to the Source there can be found the typical patterns of this author: psychological depth, strong emotional intensity, great passions, thunderstorms of love that flow over and disturb; all of this in a format in which, although Paola is the protagonist, the other characters compete with their presence in the narration, as the characters are considered more important than the story that is told. A thriller, but not only a thriller. The novels advances and goes back with flash-backs of the protagonists, a concentric time in which the destinies of different people cross in time. A meticulous time, in the same way as the author, who writes by hand and whom French critics have defined as a stylist of pain.
Víctor del Árbol grew up in the Torre Barró district and was a policeman from 1992 until 2012. He studied History at the Universitat de Barcelona and contributed to radio programs on the social reality called Catalunya Sense Barreres [Catalonia without barriers]. His first novel, El peso de los muertos [The deaths’ weight] won the Tiflos novel prize in 2006. He was shortlisted for the XIII Fernando Lara prize in 2008 for El abismo de los sueños [The dreams’ abyss], not published yet. In 2011 he published La tristeza del samurái [The Sadness of the Samurai: A Novel]; in 2013 Respirar por la herida [Breathing through the wound], which was shortlisted for the prize of best foreign novel at the International Crime Movie (sic!) Festival in Beaune 2014. After that came the big success of Un millón de gotas [One million drops; obtained two awards in France: Le Gran Prix de Littèrature Policière 2015 and the Lire for the best translated crime novel]. In this novel the author started out from the question of “who was your father or your mother before you were born” and from the consideration that “if one cannot forget the past, at least one can put it aside when it disturbs”. This asking from where we come from.
Memory and the traps of memory are a constant of the enigmas planted by the author: the construction of memory as fiction, and reality lurking to become visible. An author who uses to write sentences like the following one: “Ignorance is always daring, and he believed in the arrogance of words. He overvalued their use without realizing that words sometimes are like broken glass, and that one cannot push somebody to walk over them with bare feet.”
Some of Víctor del Árbol’s books have been translated to other languages; The Sadness of the Samurai is available in English.
SOURCE: La Vanguardia, Jan. 6, 2016