The Spanish Riveter: From PERSECUCIÓ by Toni Sala, translated by Mara Faye Lethem, introduced by Marina Porras

Evil and its moral implications is one of the main topics of Toni Sala’s work. Èlia is a middle-aged woman tired of men who don’t understand her. But Albert Jordi, the main character of Persecució, is an exception. They met on a dating site and she thought he was the one, until she discovers – because he tells her – that he killed his previous wife. Èlia, scared and paralysed, breaks up with him, leaves town and tries to forget him. But after a few days she finds herself calling him obsessively, desperately trying to know more about what happened. Forgiveness and its possibility are the themes in Persecució. Sala explores the ambiguities and dark sides of the human mind through a story that focuses on love and death and its tensions. Set in Barcelona during the political events of 2017, the novel mixes individual and collective chaos through the lives of its characters.

I went out with a guy for a year, until I found out he’d killed his wife. He told me himself. It was ten years earlier, with a knife, and he’d gone to prison. I couldn’t stand to hear any more. I walked him to the door and I gave him his jacket, and he opened the door and left.

I got into bed, still in my clothes. That morning I had changed the sheets for him, the pillowcase smelled of fabric softener and I was sent into a daze by the perfume of the flowers printed on the sheets, the flowers on the T-shirt and pants I hadn’t taken off. The scent of the garlands on the lampshade on the night table, the scent of the borders on the walls, of the bouquets on the curtains, of the crowns of flowers on the mosaic. I fell asleep on a cloud of petals, as if I were the dead woman.

I can’t transform the year I spent with Albert Jordi into a bad year, I can’t go back in time and relive it knowing what he was hiding from me. It was a very good year. My real estate agency was rebounding, we had clients coming out of the woodwork, and he was filled with the energy of a new relationship. I can still see him laughing. It was like when you walk into a new house for the first time and you immediately know it’ll improve your life because it perfectly fits the moment you’re in, your shape, as if you had drawn the blueprints yourself. Houses are like bespoke suits, they get tight or loose when you gain or lose weight, they bore you when your life is boring, they make you anxious or calm depending on your emotional state. They are sounding boards, they can be a way out or a prison, they change moment by moment.

I was over forty and I happened upon a man who was tailor-made for me. I spent my whole life without a steady partner, and it was finally my turn. I was good and ready, I deserved Albert Jordi for all the time I had waited for him, for my disposition, I deserved a stroke of good luck, and I fell head over heels like a teenager. He was ten years older than me and worked as the sales manager at Noumón, an important bookstore in Barcelona. He read a lot for work, but he knew all sorts of things that weren’t found in books. Details about people, crevices inside of crevices. He had a knowledge of the world that fascinated me. He was current on the latest books, but also on the magazines and newspapers, on international politics and wars. He said he envied me because I couldn’t name the French president.

I learned a lot with him, much more than the name of the president of France. I discovered how great my ignorance was, but also how great my possibilities were. None of my girlfriends could have imagined it, no one among my family members. All of a sudden someone flipped a switch inside me. He was my private university. We talked on the phone every day, we saw each other on weekends, at least, we went out, we drank, we talked, we went on trips. He knew the roads, the names of places and plants, of trees, birds and butterfly families. I would see two identical trees where he saw three different ones. I would say to him: how can you know that? He pointed to his head. A million gigas.

He also had a dead woman in that head, and that secret gave him the energy to always be attentive, always on point, always alert, and I spent an entire year sucking her blood.

Toni Sala

Translated by Mara Faye Lethem

From PERSECUCIÓ(‘Pursuit’)

by Toni Sala

Translated by Mara Faye Lethem

Published by L’Altra Editorial (2014)

Read The Spanish Riveter here or order your paper copy from here.

Buy books from The Spanish Riveter through the European Literature Network’s The Spanish Riveter page.

Toni Sala is a Catalan writer. His first book, Entomologia, won the Premi Documenta de narrativa, and his novel Rodalies won the Premi Sant Joan de narrativa de literatura catalana in 2004. He has also been awarded two prizes for general contributions to Catalan literature.

Mara Faye Lethem is a writer and researcher. Winner of the inaugural 2022 Spain-USA Foundation Translation Award for Max Besora’s The Adventures and Misadventures of Joan Orpí, she was also recently awarded the 2022 Joan Baptiste Cendrós International Prize for her contributions to Catalan literature.

Category: The Spanish RiveterTranslations


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