Andrés Barba - A powerful mixture of delicacy and violence, realism and interiority. Just as some families were melancholy, or happy, or destructive, theirs was a childish family. They got over excited at the drop of a hat, then grew sad for no reason

Andrés Barba, August, October, Trans. by Lisa Dillman, Hispabooks, 2015.                      

Fourteen-year-old Tomás goes with his well-off family on their usual seaside summer holiday, but he is at a stage in his life when nothing is the same. Sullenly detached from them, full of confused intimations of sexuality, he is also faced with death when his widowed aunt, who lives in the resort, is taken seriously ill. As he becomes close to her on her deathbed he frequents the forbidden in the form of some lower-class village kids—casually transgressive boys and even more alien, sexually knowing girls—that will get him involved on the last day in a gang rape of a vulnerable girl. Though when it is his turn, Tomás only pretends to do it—enough to save face with the boys. Back in Madrid, he wrestles with guilt and confusion. He finally decides to go back secretly, alone, to find the girl and apologize for what happened, but despite the moving scene of atonement and forgiveness, ambiguity lurks even in this redemption.

"Andrés Barba needs no introduction. He has his own intentional world perfectly contained and a literary gift that belies his age." —Mario Vargas Llosa

"A story that has been described as an explosive clash between Pavese's The Beautiful Summer and the adolescents of Gus van Sant's Elephant."—Daniel Entrialgo

"A new Spanish great, that’s all I need to say." —Lire

Andrés Barba’s August, October starts off full of charm: a teenage boy from Madrid ditches his family and the beach club to hang out with the local kids in a seaside town. Slowly the atmosphere darkens as he tries to adopt their code of violence. Although Barba has translated Melville, Conrad, and Defoe into Spanish, the writer whose ghost haunts August, October unmistakably is Harold Brodkey, with his deep interest in adolescent sexuality and his ability to conjure the last frontiers of childhood. Like Brodkey, Barba inhabits his young hero with a clarity that is both sympathetic and unflinching. —Lorin Stein

Fourteen-year-old Tomás’ life changes forever while on a beach vacation with his family in award-winning Spanish writer Barba's (Rain Over Madrid, 2014, etc.) newly translated novel.
This is a coming-of-age story, of sorts; Tomás finds himself estranged from his own rapidly changing body and from his family. Riddled with teen angst, he spends a great deal of time at the beginning of the novel feeling disillusioned with his parents, who, from his perspective, are “no longer bathed in the benevolent glow of childhood, no longer superior beings; they, too, had been strangely degraded somehow.” Tomás’ inner turmoil is familiar, certainly, but none of it makes him especially sympathetic—in fact, his perpetual bad attitude makes us long for him to just grow up already. Fortunately, our frustration is eventually offset by the relationship Tomás forms with four local boys from the poor part of town, or “forbidden territory.” The boys introduce Tomás to a world of casual sex that he finds simultaneously enticing and bizarrely repulsive. His struggle to balance his desire and revulsion—especially where one of the local girls is concerned—gives the novel a much-needed menacing edge that propels the story forward. Finally, on the night after Tomás’ aunt’s funeral, his new friends draw him into a whirl of drinking, drugs, and an act of unspeakable violence. The second part of the novel deals with the emotional aftermath of that night, as Tomás further isolates himself, keeping the events a secret, while his family grieves for his aunt. It's shorter than the first part and comparatively lighter. Tomás ultimately seeks redemption and finds it perhaps a little too quickly. We are left with the sense that, yes, bad things happen, but in the end, all is forgiven and life goes on.
This is a coming-of-age novel that can be captivating and possesses many strengths but an equal—perhaps greater—number of weaknesses.  - Kirkus Reviews

Andrés Barba (Madrid, 1975) was last year chosen as one of Granta’s ‘Best of Young Spanish Language Novelists’. He has distinguished himself across the literary field, with six novels (Katia’s Sister, 2001, has been filmed; Versions of Teresa won the Torrente Ballester prize 2006), short stories, and essays (The Ceremony of Porn won the Anagrama Essay Prize in 2007). His works have been translated into nine languages and so far, a couple of stories have made it into English.
Fourteen-year-old Tomás goes with his well-off family on their usual seaside summer holiday, but he is at a stage in his life when nothing is the same. Sullenly detached from his family, full of confused intimations of sexuality, he is also faced with death when his widowed aunt, who lives in the resort, is taken seriously ill. The double thread of sex and death cross in his obscure search for meaning, as he frequents the forbidden in the form of some lower-class village kids: casually transgressive boys and even more alien, sexually knowing girls; meanwhile he becomes close to his delirious aunt on her deathbed.
The climax comes when on the last day, he finds himself participating in a gang rape of a retarded girl who is like a mascot for the town kids. When it is his turn, he only pretends to do it, enough to save face with the boys.
In the second, shorter section, Tomás, back in Madrid, wrestles with guilt and confusion until he takes some money and his aunt’s keys, and goes back secretly, alone, to find the girl. Their day at her school fete is on the face of it a moving scene of atonement and forgiveness. However, ambiguity lurks even in this redemption: Tomás plays a loving older brother, and yet it is not quite like that for the young girl.
Andrés Barba’s crafted, sensual prose gives us this dark story from within Tomás’s groping feelings and thoughts, though it is not a first-person account. A powerful mixture of delicacy and violence, realism and interiority, characterizes the writer’s style, with echoes of bildungsroman classics from André Gide and Thomas Mann to Edmund White. The psychological complexities avoid triteness because they are always concrete, conveyed through perception and sensation. Barba is an artist who rehabilitates the personal, and whose themes of youth and age, vulnerability and stoicism, cruelty and candour, cause this very adult novel about adolescence to resonate hauntingly in the mind. - Lorna Scott

Tomás is 14 and beginning to feel a bit disgruntled inside his skin. He has finally noticed that his parents are far more stupid than he had previously suspected. They even look a bit funny when they are asleep. Their faces become puffy; they resemble “a couple of puppets worse for wear”. He knows; he has been spying on them.
He is on vacation with them and his little sister Anita in the usual seaside place, far from Madrid and in one of the many holiday homes they have rented over the years.
“They spent the first few days enjoying the house with almost angst-ridden delight. Deep down they were a childish family. Just as some families were melancholy, or happy, or destructive, theirs was a childish family. They got over excited at the drop of a hat, then grew sad for no reason.”
Andrés Barba is one of several impressive writers from Spain at work on fiction that brilliantly dissects the business of being alive. He brings an unusually metaphysical intelligence which is exact and whimsical, undercut by a refined, humane tenderness. It is a quality he shares with his countrymen Álvaro Colomer, Adolfo Garcí Ortega and JA González Sainz – who are all, incidentally, published by Hispa in Madrid. The humour in August, October is far more painful, unlike the exasperated comedy of Colomer. Barba is capable of articulating intense states of mind with the surreal clarity more usually experienced in dreams.
This profound short novel – first published in Spain in 2010 – before his outstanding quartet of novellas, Rain Over Madrid, all of which were also sensitively translated by the US-based Lisa Dillman, belongs to the great coming-of-age stories. It seems simple and communal, almost matter-of-fact and devastatingly convincing.
Read it once at a gulp and then return to it. It possesses disarming genius and complex layers of truth, heightened by glimpses of understanding accompanied by near panic. Tomás has begun to drift between boyhood and the adult world. He taunts his mortality by a strange act of wilfulness while swimming which almost ends in disaster. The sensations throughout the narrative, both psychological and physical, are real and this is a story which delivers a palpable physical punch similar to that of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides (1993).
The one element of Tomás’s life, until this summer of shocking revelations, is his solemn sister. Anita is the one presence which binds Tomás to his real self, the kinder one tested by the need to assert his new personality in a world turned harsh. His emerging maturity is making him more critical, not only of his parents but of the city children he used to play with. “They were boys and girls from good families . . . and they behave like mini-emperors, a plague of 14-year-old serpents, green and shiny, taking over the small beach town every summer.”
His former playmates now repel him: “He’s begun to experience a strange feeling of contempt for them.” With Anita it is very different. Barba conveys the sibling bond with understated beauty: “He and Anita were close, the two of them formed their own private community. He would turn to her and suddenly become aware of her admiration – a gaze so steady he got the feeling that his face was being engulfed by hers . . and when they walked from the house to the beach, he’d slip her his hand, pretending to have done it unawares.”
The characterisation of the sister is extraordinarily astute: “Anita was an unusual little girl. Sometimes she seemed cold, as though she’d learned from the time she was a baby to absorb things without touching them at all, to go unnoticed, moving from place to place on her tiny little legs.”
Few writers have come closer to depicting the vividly secret inner world of a child. Anita’s empathy is unsettling. “She seemed very different, moved to an almost insufferable degree by other people’s pain, and that was when she walked the way she was walking now, as though dragging something behind her, something heavy and dense.”
The shocking burden is the illness of Aunt Eli, their father’s widowed sister, who appears to have entered a fatalistic mental state. Quite by random Eli mentions the Eiffel Tower and that she doesn’t want to die without seeing it. When her melodramatic statement is countered, she remains unperturbed: “You don’t know that, maybe I will die tomorrow . . . I’ve never travelled anywhere in my whole life.”
Tomás is moving at a rapid pace. The restlessness which has begun to control him drives him out to the estuary “because the estuary was where you weren’t supposed to go”. He wanders on, recalling his aunt referring to a man who had “turned up dead there’’. It is a wonderful phrase; Barba – and his translator – are alert to the unconscious ways in which ordinary speech frequently includes the incorrect. Tomás “didn’t know what he was hoping to find, he was trying to translate it into words, but he’d always been better at feeling than thinking”.
When he happens upon a group of four local boys, his first impulse is to threaten them with a rock. A brief display of bravado follows. The only way these relate to the world and to each other is by sexualised goading. “They couldn’t have been more than 14, and yet they were older than him, as old as fossil fish, as survival, as torture or neglect. They’d become realists. Their sexuality was clearly developed and that seemed to have created mysterious bonds among them . . . like wolves . . . hunting in a pack.”
Forming a wary alliance of sorts with them, Tomás joins the gang. The illness and sudden death of his aunt sustains some level of distance for Tomás from the boys. His final initiation into their society of violence and abuse involves an outrageous act of violation which, although he does not fully participate, preys on his mind. Back in Madrid he becomes ill. Again Anita steals the show as she keeps vigil by his bed, “sitting on the floor with a handkerchief tied over her mouth like a miniature bank robber”.
The closing quest sequence in which he runs away from his home in Madrid to return to the resort town completes an act of atonement. He imagines arriving at a doorway, “his hair ridiculously combed, smiling, holding out a bouquet of flowers . . . offering them to a girl who, in all likelihood, would run away if she saw him”.
At the close of the book he is standing at a bus station with a girl whose face is “so huge, so full of life, round as a pie” and simple goodness imbues the story with a grandeur rarely achieved. Think of the hyped formulaic fiction being churned out on conveyer belts by busy famous writers with international reputations and shrug. August, October is beyond impressive, it is the real thing, a study of how the mind and memory attempts to make sense of emotion and guilt; need and regret. -
Eileen Battersby

Andrés Barba’s fiction is a zone of transformation. In Granta’s Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists issue, Barba’s story, “The Coming Flood,” follows a prostitute obsessed with grafting a horn to her head. An excerpt from Barba’s Las manos pequeñas, appearing in Words Without Borders, portrays a group of orphan girls who ritualistically dress and treat one of their friends like a doll. Both works reinforce the mutability of personhood, albeit through extreme cases. In August, October and Rain Over Madrid, Barba’s first full-length works translated into English, the author attends to more conventional types of transformation: puberty, fatherhood, and grief. These transitions are not so much physical, as in the earlier texts, but emotional, and they signal a shift in Barba’s work, a move away from the gritty realms of prostitutes and orphans to the unspoken depravity of domestic life.
August, October, a novel, opens with Tomás, a fourteen-year-old boy on vacation with his family at the seashore, masturbating to the image of an “abstract amalgam of girls.” His pleasure is intense and displeasing, we’re told. But Eros isn’t the only drive in Tomás’s life. A few days later, he tries to drown himself: “it occurred to him that he could die there, and the idea didn’t frighten him in the slightest.” His parents insist that he had an accident, that their son would never try to kill himself. Tomás doesn’t argue with them.
But Barba makes clear that their explanation is a form of naïveté: “Deep down they were a childish family. Just as some families were melancholy, or happy, or destructive, theirs was a childish family.” Tomás’s brush with suicide disabuses him of this childishness and initiates a rift between him and his family. His terminally ill Aunt Eli begins to repulse him. His parents look depleted. As Tomás further isolates himself, he becomes a stern critic of his parents:
All his life, he’d admired his father’s grace, and now he was discovering—as though the discovery had occurred while watching him sleep but taken until that moment to be confirmed—that he was also a troubled man, biased, impatient, perhaps sensual; he was discovering that his grace was the result of a pretense, a pretense as ingrained as a habit or an incurable defect.
In his father, Tomás sees a vision of his future self: flawed and vulnerable. Essentially, human. To counteract this, Tomás ditches his family to hang out with a group of boys from the poor part of town. The boys are hardened and reckless, veritable Lotharios of the dock: they see sex “simply [as] a basic, vital thing ever present in the world of possibilities.” Tomás, a shy, sensitive virgin, is an outsider among them. He becomes further alienated, suspended between the dock boys and his family.
In this liminal space, he learns to think for himself, albeit with the prescriptive ennui of an angsty teenager: “He had never before suspected that life also entailed infinite shame, and that that shame was so directly and heartlessly related to physical pain.” The pain is question is that of Tomás’s Aunt Eli. Days later, she passes away, and the family proves incompetent in the face of death. In the hospital, they don’t even realize Aunt Eli has died and continue caring for her corpse. They attend the funeral wearing beach pastels, reassuring themselves Aunt Eli would have liked their attire. Only Tomás seems aware that they are deluding themselves.
 In the days after her death, Tomás spends more time with the dock boys. Their violent, sexualized lives offer him a reprieve from his grieving family. Death, for them, is as unremarkable as sex. Tomás wishes he could think like they do, but he is clearly grieving, despite his best efforts not to. It is his authentic, indelible grief that separates him from the dock boys. Barba pushes their differences to an extreme when the boys pressure Tomás into gang-raping a mentally challenged teenager. When it is his turn, he fakes it, wishing only that he could apologize to the girl. It takes an act of brutality to awaken Tomás to his morality.
The final part of the book, “October,” veers toward sentimentality. Tomás is no Meursault. His gruesome act on the beach haunts his psyche, spurring him on a mission of atonement at odds with his character and the nature of the book. He redeems himself without much of an effort, a perhaps too simplistic conclusion to an otherwise unflinching portrait of adolescence.
The shape and expectations of a novel just might not be suited for Barba’s particular skill set. Readers of “The Coming Flood” know the author excels when he denies his readers a neat resolution. In his collection of novellas, Rain Over Madrid¸ the author plays to this strength, driving his characters toward states of self-opposition where they begin to grasp, without fully comprehending, their own complicated selfhoods.
Like August, October, the novellas in Rain Over Madrid take the family as its primary subject. The opening novella, “Fatherhood,” follows a handsome, unnamed musician as he struggles to build a relationship with his son. His commitment to his son is questionable, and throughout the piece Barba explores the difference between merely fathering a child and actually being a father.
The protagonist straddles the line between superficiality and authenticity. A small-time musician, he uses his talent primarily as a tool for picking up women. One of those women, Sonia, shows up at his apartment pregnant one morning. She moves in, but the relationship fizzles once she reveals that she is wealthy. What good is a father, Barba asks, if he cannot provide emotional or financial support? After their son Anton is born, the protagonist proves to be a clueless father: “Every time that he saw [his son] he brought a gift that only seemed appropriate for the previous child, the one he’d been the last time he saw him.”
Over the course of six years the protagonist finds it increasingly difficult to communicate with his son. Though he remains a capable womanizer. In the novella’s final scene, the father sits his son in front of a TV and passes out in his bedroom, trying to sleep off a hangover. When he wakes, one of his recent lovers is watching TV with the boy. Her kindness stabilizes the scene and offers the father a template for how to treat his son.
The piece ends when the father comes to an ambiguous insight while the three are playing Monopoly: “Six, three, four, Jail, a house, and every time they pass Go, the glimmering, long-awaited twenty-thousand-peseta bill. And then, suddenly, he understands.” What the father understands remains unclear. How to be a good father? How to treat this new lover kindly? Here, Barba highlights the superficiality of an epiphany, resisting the template offered by Joyce to so many other writers of short fiction. This ending may ostensibly provide closure, but it complicates what readers might have hoped would be made simple. We are left merely hoping the father will reform, even though nothing about him suggests that he will.
“Guile” and “Fidelity” both center on women drawn toward unforeseen relationships as they work through family crises. “Guile” examines the unexpected relationships we form to work through grief. The middle-aged protagonist is facing the slow death of her mother (Mamá). Early on, the story feels like a conventional tale about a mother and daughter working through their strained past. But Barba is not aiming for reconciliation—these characters cannot even admit to loving each other.
Instead, Barba tracks the protagonist’s burgeoning obsession with her mother’s caretaker, the nineteen-year-old Anita. It is she, and not the protagonist, who seems most affected by Mama’s illness: “I don’t want to see Señora die. Do you understand? I don’t want Señora to die in front of me.” As Mamá’s condition worsens, Anita and the protagonist form the sort of bond one would expect between mother and daughter. Ironically, it is the daughter, not Mamá, who Anita seems to be caring for.
Two years after Mamá’s death, the protagonist sees Anita at the mall and trails her. Their eventual interaction is hardly chummy: “Please don’t follow me anymore,” Anita says. As Anita departs, the protagonist belatedly suffers the grief she had evaded. She weeps for some time and then walks onto the street feeling “as if she were now free from something—of what, she did not know—finally, marvelously, free.” Without the buffer of Anita’s friendship, the protagonist is free to experience pain. Grief, Barba suggests, is both debilitating and freeing, but it must be faced head-on. And the protagonist’s friendship with Anita—who represents a safe connection to death—offers a refreshing contrast to the clichéd depiction of sex as a balm for mourning.
“Fidelity” follows seventeen-year-old Marina as she ventures toward sexual freedom. The novella begins with a dismissal of literary sex: “While making love for the fourth time in her life, Marina thought for the first time (the other three, she’d set out to simply feel, to register information) that real physical pleasure—the flickering that came of that bumbling, fondling game—was nothing like any fictional version she’d ever red in a novel.” Marina, the daughter of a literary scholar, rebukes fictionalized sex while having sex in her father’s library, setting the tone for a novella concerned with the interplay between sex and its resultant narratives.
Marina’s lover is Ramón, an insecure Adonis with a crippling case of test anxiety. But their relationship is not the foremost love affair on Marina’s mind. While volunteering for Doctors Without Borders, she spies her father with his mistress. Instead of exposing him, she infiltrates the mistress’s apartment under the pretense of handing out leaflets. Sitting in the apartment, Marina wonders, “How much tedium, how much wisdom, how much life, how much love was contained in those empty teacups, those half-filled bookshelves, that nervousness, that dress she wore?” Barba is drawn to these sorts of intense, conflicting emotions. After leaving the apartment, Marina imagines her father together with his mistress, Sandra. The image hardly disgusts her. “She’d been immediately turned on . . . envisioning Sandra pronouncing those words [Do whatever you want to me]. She was turned on against her will.”
This type of emotional honesty reappears throughout Barba’s work. His characters are often self-centered, aggrieved, and closed-off. They are not abnormal. They merely live in a world—our world—where love of oneself is prioritized over love of others. The domestic realm, for Barba, is rife with superficial love and habituated affection, but literature offers a way to break through habit and superficiality. Barba’s goal is to force his characters to confront their undisclosed, authentic feelings; this is not merely character development, but character transformation. The narrative arc serves as a transitional phase into a new personhood.  
For Marina, this means discovering her capacity for empathy. Late in the story, on a chance encounter with Sandra, Marina intuits that her father has ended the affair. She decides to have a drink with Sandra, knowing the woman does not want to be alone. Adult love, she realizes, is composed of betrayals and sudden conclusions. This realization culminates when, on vacation with her parents, Marina wakes early one morning and watches them sleep:
Up until now, she’d assumed that it was for fear of seeing their nakedness, albeit accidentally, that she was embarrassed to watch her parents sleep, now she understood that what she was really afraid of, what she was ashamed of, was something else; it was as though something had altered their intimacy itself. She felt like she’d never truly seen them before.
The final novella, “Shopping,” follows a thirty-one year old woman Christmas shopping with her mother, Nelly, a self-centered and beautiful woman. Here, Barba once again explores the divide between parents and children. Families are composed of conflicting narratives. And in the story the protagonist tells herself, her father, recently deceased, was a kind, loving man who Nelly treated with unwarranted cruelty. Throughout the novella, the protagonist’s memories frequently interrupt the real-time narrative, drawing readers back to her parent’s ill-fated marriage, her father’s slow death, and Nelly’s ostensible cruelty. These memories force the protagonist to reconsider her parents’ relationship. Over the course of the day, Papá devolves from a spurned saint into a lovesick drunk who manipulated his daughter into feeling sympathy for him. Nelly’s selfishness undergoes its own stark revision. Character, Barba reminds us, is nothing but a fabrication of perspective.
Lisa Dillman, translator of both books, has worked with Barba in the past, and here she does an excellent job rendering Barba’s prose with precision and clarity, even as his long sentences map the minutiae of thought over numerous clauses. In Dillman’s translations, Barba’s psychological acuity is patient and uncompromising; it sheds light on the dark corners of the mind that very few authors attempt to explore. The depraved, selfish, and violent thoughts that drive his characters are not deviant thoughts, but disturbingly normal: his characters are all too human in their vanity, cruelty, and naked love. - Alex McElroy

Rain Over Madrid
Andrés Barba, Rain Over Madrid, rans. by Lisa Dillman, Hispabooks, 2014.   

A collection of four novellas—"Fatherhood," "Guile," "Fidelity" and "Shopping"—where intense loneliness and desire guide an alienated cast of characters. In these poignant depictions of repression and guilt Barba captures existential mystery in seemingly banal moments of domestic strife, family tension, and romantic entanglements.                       

“She remembers that the comment really stung and then immediately stopped stinging—like accidentally touching an open sore—when she took into account that a virtue can also be a defect if you just shift your perspective a few inches.” Taken from one of the four novellas comprising Rain Over Madrid—“Fatherhood,” “Guile,” “Fidelity,” and “Shopping”—these words encapsulate the whole book’s leitmotiv: all of a sudden, someone is finally able to comprehend somebody else’s life.
By featuring totally divergent characters in different settings, Barba in these stories tackles issues such as death, the inability to communicate feelings, the sudden eruption of love, fascination for the other, the architecture of desire and the fear of happiness. An exceptional collection and an enticing read.

Andrés Barba's Rain Over Madrid is a collection of four novellas running to just over two-hundred pages.  Each takes place in the Spanish capital, and the stories are mostly about people coming to terms with love and family - fairly commonplace topics, but handled nicely.
The first piece, 'Fatherhood' sees a semi-successful musician becoming a father when his rich girlfriend unexpectedly falls pregnant.  While the relationship with the mother is fairly shortlived, he realises that fatherhood is something that lasts forever:

"It seemed then, for the first time, that a sort of transference took place; he didn't know how else to explain it - a boundless well of emotion, and also pain at the fact that intimacy and natural behaviour were not possible between them.  Until that moment, he'd only ever sensed it in the vaguest of ways, but now it seemed undeniable."'Fatherhood', p.33 (Hispabooks, 2014)
The story extends over several years, with Barba chronicling the man's attempt to stay close to the boy he rarely sees.  Will he ever be able to break through the barrier of politeness separating them?
The other stories then move on to see matters through the eyes of women.  In 'Guilt', a married woman is forced to act as the focal point for her family, with matters coming to a head when she is forced to look for (yet another) live-in home help for her ageing, cantankerous mother.  The main character of 'Fidelity', by contrast, is a teenage girl discovering sex for the first time and generally having a wonderful time.  However, her summer in the sun turns a little sour when she finds out that she's not the only one in her family having some fun.
The final piece, 'Shopping', follows a woman approaching middle age and her glamorous mother, Nelly.  This is no maternal figure, rather a whirlwind in Prada, and her idea of being 'natural' is not what the daughter would hope for:

"Not so for Nelly.  Nelly is natural like a typhoon is natural, like all self-centered egotists, like a disaster, like the Grand Canyon, like a luxury item ensconced in an absurdly minimalist display case in a glittery shop window."'Shopping', p.171
As they go shopping in the snow for Christmas presents, the daughter sees chinks in her mother's armour for the first time, making it easier for her to make allowances for Nelly's bossy behaviour.  After all, everyone gets old...
Rain Over Madrid is an enjoyable read with four excellent stories.  Despite the extended time span of the first two stories, it almost seems as if the book is divided into seasons, as we move from the eternal spring of 'Fatherhood', to the winter streetscape of 'Shopping'.  Each story looks at a moment of realisation, a time when a life changes direction.  Not all of the turning points are dramatic, but they're all important in their own way.
The protagonists (mostly written in the first person) struggle with relationships, and each must deal with big personalities in their lives, whether they be lovers, sisters, fathers or mothers.  Introverts for the most part, yet desiring emotion and human contact, the central characters are confronted by people who are completely self-absorbed and self-obsessed.  In order to get what they want from their relationships, Barba's creations must make an effort to assert themselves, even though it may seem easier at times to just go with the flow.
The stories are written in an excellent style, calm, casual and very easy to read.  I enjoyed Dillman's work with the translation as the stories flow nicely.  There are no jarring tones, and the dialogue and description are seamlessly integrated, making for an excellent read.  There are a few obvious Americanisms, but you can't have everything, especially when the translator comes from the States ;)
Rain Over Madrid is another enjoyable work from Hispabooks, and it's definitely a book many will enjoy.  The four stories are interesting, very accessible and easy to read in a single setting, despite their length - hopefully this bodes well for getting more from Barba into English soon :)  -
Spanish author Andres Barba’s English language debut, brought to you by the amazing folks at Hispabooks Publishing (who are bringing previously untranslated contemporary Spanish authors for the English speaking reader something I’ve been waiting for for some time now). In his native Spain, Barba is the author of about 12 books of literary fiction, non-fiction, photography, art and children’s books. In 2010 Granta included him in their Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists. It’s easy to see why after reading this collection of four novellas: Fatherhood, Guile, Fidelity, and Shopping. 
Each of the four novellas are connected thematically, each exploring various issues of human nature: death, love, sex, a fascination for the other, desire, fear, fatherhood and the one theme that links all of these stories: the sudden understanding of another person’s life. 
In Fatherhood, we follow a struggling musician who gets his girlfriend pregnant however his girlfriend doesn’t want him in her life and has since found someone else. However the musician does his best to be a father to his son but finds it isn’t as easy as he thought it would be. Guile follows a young woman who is watching her mother slowly disintegrate, both physically and mentally. She hires a young Colombian woman to act as caretaker and becomes slowly fascinated with her. Meanwhile, as her mother’s condition deteriorates, the young woman’s somewhat dysfunctional family dynamic only seems to complicate matters more. Fidelity is about a young woman who — while out being a volunteer for Doctors Without Borders — discovers her father out with another woman. She follows her father’s mistress and becomes fascinated with her (one could even say even a hint of sexual attraction) trying to learn about who this woman is and what it was about her that appealed to her father. Meanwhile, she’s having relationship problems of her own with her hapless boyfriend who can’t seem to get it together. As she tries to come to grips with the idea of her father being unfaithful, she begins to see her parents’ love life in a whole new way. Finally, Shopping, which follows a mother and daughter through one day of Christmas shopping as a light snow falls over Madrid and the complicated dynamic between them as they spend the day together. 
Each of these stories are extremely well written and Barba has the unique talent of getting into his character’s heads in a way not seen by many novelists: complex and extremely realistic, insightful. His prose style is absolutely outstanding, literary without being Literary, often with unique metaphors which precisely pinpoint the emotion or feeling conveyed. An immense talent and well deserving of being included in Granta’s list. Now it’s only a matter of time to see whether or not the English speaking world will take to him as the Spanish speaking world already has. He will, in my view, without a doubt. A truly talented writer who is ready to find a worldwide audience. -

Andrés Barba (Madrid, 1975) is an award-winning Spanish novelist, essayist, translator, scriptwriter and photographer. He is the author of a total of twelve books of literary fiction, non-fiction, photography, arts and children’s literature. His works have been translated into ten languages. In 2010 he was featured in Granta magazine as one of the twenty-two best young Spanish-language writers.


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Steven Seidenberg - a dramatic intensification of Seidenberg’s career-long blurring of fiction, poetry, and philosophy—an accomplishment recalling the literary contributions of Blanchot, Bernhard, and pre-impasse Beckett

Leon Forrest - Fabulous, wildly comic, and Ulysses-like. a huge oratorio of the sacred and the profane, set in bars, churches, and barbershops .

Norman Levine, like no other writer, manages to convey, squarely, through this single, sad, common reaching out at strangers, the horrific fear scarred across the nervous system of the post-Munch, post-Bacon, human condition