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Exiled after the Spanish Civil War, Rodoreda (1908-1993) worked on this marvelously disturbing novel over a 20-year period, and its first publication was posthumous. As macabre as a Grimm fairy tale, the novel portrays the cruel customs of an unnamed village as seen through the eyes of an unnamed 14-year-old boy. The narrator witnesses his father's horrible death, which, it becomes clear as the story progresses, happens according to local custom: to pour cement into the mouths of the dying in order to seal their souls within their bodies, then entomb them within a hollowed tree. The narrator also spends a good deal of time with the village prisoner, who for years has been confined to a too-small cage and now is only too happy to explain the bizarre village goings-on to the narrator and his friend, the son of the blacksmith who runs the town. The plot, though anemic, has its share of increasingly perverse twists, and the intense lyricism of Rodoreda's language, captured here by Tennent's gorgeous translation, makes her grotesque vision intoxicating and haunting. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.