A Manuscript of Ashes

A Manuscript of Ashes

by Antonio Munoz Molina
     
 

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It’s the late sixties, the last dark years of Franco’s dictatorship: Minaya, a university student in Madrid, is caught up in the student protests and the police are after him. He moves to his uncle Manuel’s country estate in the small town of Mágina to write his thesis on an old friend of Manuel’s, an obscure republican poet named

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Overview

It’s the late sixties, the last dark years of Franco’s dictatorship: Minaya, a university student in Madrid, is caught up in the student protests and the police are after him. He moves to his uncle Manuel’s country estate in the small town of Mágina to write his thesis on an old friend of Manuel’s, an obscure republican poet named Jacinto Solana.

The country house is full of traces of the poet—notes, photographs, journals—and Minaya soon discovers that, thirty years earlier, during the Spanish Civil War, both his uncle and Solana were in love with the same woman, the beautiful, unsettling Mariana. Engaged to Manuel, she was shot in the attic of the house on her wedding night. With the aid of Inés, a maid, Minaya begins to search for Solana’s lost masterpiece, a novel called Beatus Ille. Looking for a book, he unravels a crime.

Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
This is a brilliant novel by an important writer unafraid of ideas, emotions and genuine beauty. 'A Manuscript of Ashes' could be pleasurably read out of appreciation for any one of those qualities—or, perhaps, for the intricately plotted mystery that bears the novel's characters along like travelers on a dark, treacherous river.

—Tim Rutten

New York Sun
[R]apturously Gothic...The book is written in incantatory run-on sentences, intoxicated with sensual details...The past, Mr. Munoz Molina implies, is never as dead as we think, and the stories it tells us are never free of hidden agendas.

—Adam Kirsch

Newsweek

"In 2003, the acclaimed Spanish writer and journalist Antonio Munoz Molina took the English-speaking world by storm with the translation of his work 'Sepharad.' Now Anglophone readers will get to revel anew in Munoz Molina's sensual prose and fluid plotlines with the translation of his first novel."
New York Magazine

"Antonio Munoz Molina's latest beautifully wrought novel, 'A Manuscript of Ashes', is set in Franco-era Spain and tells the story of a young university student, Minaya, who retreats to his uncle Manuel's mansion in the countryside to write a thesis on a neglected poet the old man once knew. As the plot progresses, Minaya uncovers a startling truth about the relationship between the men, and the story darkens into a meta-mystery. Molina writes in big, fat paragraphs and the kind of lush sentences that can bear the scrutiny usually reserved for poems."
Barnes & Noble.com

"[A]compulsively re-readable novel (which has been splendidly translated by Edith Grossman)...The insistence on the primacy of the invisible reckoning, as opposed to the outwardly visible action, gives...this novel an unsinkable power."

— Christopher Byrd

www.mostlyfiction.com

"Intense, kaleidoscopic....the narrative speeds along on the strength of the spell it weaves."
Christian Science Monitor

"[I]ts enigmatic melancholy offers rewards."
From the Publisher

PRAISE FOR SEPHARAD

"Shame and guilt, homelands and exile, ceaseless wanderings and bitter alienations both internal and external, metaphorical and real, are persistent motifs of Muñoz Molina’s remarkable novel—one that turns out to be about a territory far vaster than 'Sepharad' itself: Europe, perhaps even the world . . . [A] masterpiece."—Daniel Mendelsohn, The New York Review of Books

"A magnificent novel about the iniquity and horror of fanaticism, and especially the human being's indestructible spirit."—Mario Vargas Llosa

Los Angeles Times - Tim Rutten

"This is a brilliant novel by an important writer unafraid of ideas, emotions and genuine beauty. 'A Manuscript of Ashes' could be pleasurably read out of appreciation for any one of those qualities-- or, perhaps, for the intricately plotted mystery that bears the novel's characters along like travelers on a dark, treacherous river."
New York Sun - Adam Kirsch

"[R]apturously Gothic...The book is written in incantatory run-on sentences, intoxicated with sensual details...The past, Mr. Munoz Molina implies, is never as dead as we think, and the stories it tells us are never free of hidden agendas."

Barnes & Noble.com - Christopher Byrd

"[A]compulsively re-readable novel (which has been splendidly translated by Edith Grossman)...The insistence on the primacy of the invisible reckoning, as opposed to the outwardly visible action, gives...this novel an unsinkable power."
Publishers Weekly

Following Muñoz Molina's acclaimed 18th book, Sepharad, this translation of his third novel (published in his native Spain in 1986) dives into a bleak corner of Franco's waning dictatorship. In 1969, Minaya, a student who has attracted secret police notice, leaves Madrid for his uncle Manuel's house in a small town in Cordoba. There, he plans to research Republican-era poet Jacinto Solana, who briefly stayed at Manuel's house after being released from prison in 1947. The house itself is a gloomy place of stale secrets and arrested lives: Manuel's mother, Doña Elvira, lives reclusively at its top; Manuel still doesn't forgive her for her disapproval of Mariana Ríos, the artist's model whom he married in 1937 and who was killed, supposedly by a stray fascist bullet-and whom Jacinto Solana also loved. Minaya (with help from Manuel's young maid, Inés) finds hidden manuscripts by Jacinto, which put him on the trail of the true story. Molina keeps an iron grip on the plot's intricacies. The abrupt payoff is more Agatha Christie than anything else, but Molina's slow moves through the story's maze capture the wrenching tragedy of 20th-century Spain. (Aug.)

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Library Journal

Originally published in Spanish, Muñoz Molina's first novel appears here in a finely wrought English translation for the first time. It is an intellectual, double-barrel detective story that superficially concerns itself with a murderer's identity and artistically with the narrator's identity. Minaya, a university student in Madrid, returns to his uncle's home in the mythical town of Mágina to write a dissertation on the late forgotten poet Jacinto Solana. With the maid's help 32 years after the fact, Minaya uncovers the identity of his uncle's wife's murderer. Furthermore, as it turns out, Solana is not only very much alive, but Minaya also plays an important role in this work's creation. Using memory as a narrative device, Muñoz Molina guides readers to the surprise ending through a sequence of events that flit back and forth between the Spanish civil war era and the postbellum period. Already a contemporary classic, this work-whose nonlinear story is developed via changing narrative voices and whose hermetic text requires persistence and close observation-is an enigmatic gem in the very best metafiction tradition. Recommended for large public libraries and for academic libraries that collect contemporary translations.
—Lawrence Olszewski

Kirkus Reviews
Specters from the Spanish Civil War and the ghost of tragic love haunt the latest from award-winning Molina (In Her Absence, 2007, etc.). In the waning days of Franco's dictatorship, the police seek a young man named Minaya because of his involvement in student protests. He needs to leave Madrid but has nowhere to go. A chance encounter with a scholar studying the Republican poet Jacinto Solana reminds Minaya of his uncle Manuel, who was friends with the writer. He writes to the old man, claiming he is working on a thesis about Solana, and asks if he can pay a visit to conduct research. Manuel invites Minaya to his home in the small town of Magina. His uncle's mansion is a shrine to the beautiful Mariana, the young man discovers; every room contains pictures and mementos of the woman who died-shot in the head-on the night of their marriage. Solana was in love with Mariana too, Minaya discovers, and as he searches for the poet's missing masterpiece, he uncovers a crime. This synopsis in no way captures the experience of following-or rather, trying to follow-the plot. Molina's narrative traces a dizzyingly elliptical trajectory, moving backwards and forwards in time and shifting perspective so abruptly that it is sometimes exceedingly difficult to determine the antecedent to which a pronoun refers. A lost manuscript, a love triangle, the suggestion of murder: These tantalizing elements create a dynamic tension that the novel's punishingly slow pace cannot sustain. Molina is a stylish and much-lauded writer, but the artistry that makes works like Sepharad (2003) so rich and compelling in this case overwhelms the story. The author demands a lot from his readers, and many of them may find therewards not worth the effort. A wearying, headache-inducing exercise in "literary" mystery.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780151014101
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
08/04/2008
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

ANTONIO MUÑOZ MOLINA is the author of more than a dozen novels, among them Sepharad, A Manuscript of Ashes, and In Her Absence. He has also been awarded the Jerusalem Prize and the Príncipe de Asturias Prize, among many others. He lives in Madrid and New York City.

EDITH GROSSMAN is the acclaimed translator of, among others, Cervantes, Gabriel García Márquez, and Mario Vargas Llosa. In 2006 she was awarded the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation.

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