Vermeer's Milkmaid

Overview

Manuel Rivas is "an author who knows how to introduce poetry not just into his sentences but into his way of looking at the world." Now, Rivas turns his poetic eye upon his native region with this collection of stories." A traveling lingerie salesman is helped miraculously by a rock musician as he waits for his son who has run away; a love-addled bank robber botches a job; a sleepy village is abruptly transformed by the onset of the Spanish Civil War. The everyday lives of the memorable Galician characters may be...

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Overview

Manuel Rivas is "an author who knows how to introduce poetry not just into his sentences but into his way of looking at the world." Now, Rivas turns his poetic eye upon his native region with this collection of stories." A traveling lingerie salesman is helped miraculously by a rock musician as he waits for his son who has run away; a love-addled bank robber botches a job; a sleepy village is abruptly transformed by the onset of the Spanish Civil War. The everyday lives of the memorable Galician characters may be desperately harsh and filled with pain and solitude, but their situations are always redeemed by humor and tenderness in this collection of sixteen short stories by prizewinning Spanish writer Manuel Rivas. Rivas draws on folktales, fantasy, and, most deeply, human psychology to create haunting tiny dramas. Deft and precise, these stories linger long after being read.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

With simple grace, 16 stories by Galician-born journalist and author Rivas (The Carpenter's Pencil) transport readers to rural Galicia, in northwest Spain. The 15-year-old carpenter's son of "Saxophone in the Mist" picks up the instrument to please his father. Pressed into an itinerant band, he quickly learns, despite his feelings of inadequacy, that playing for people, and especially an adoring local girl, is like falling in love. "Butterfly's Tongue" (made into a 1999 film), begins as a young boy's loving reflection of his enlightened first teacher, who taught him things his provincial parents couldn't comprehend, then dilates into a harrowing betrayal with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The title story unspools the narrator's poignant memory of his milkmaid mother, whom he recognizes much later in a figure in a Vermeer painting, "as alike as two drops of milk." Published in Spain in 1995, these evocative tales retain a lyrical freshness. (Aug.)

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Library Journal

Rivas (b. 1957), who writes in the ancient Galician language of northwestern Spain, infuses both his sentences and his subject matter with his own natural poetry. The title piece, taken from a 1660 painting by Vermeer possessing a mysterious quality of luminosity, develops the similarity between its subject and the author's own mother, also a milkmaid, who subsequently has the opportunity to react when told of the painting. Translator Dunne is Irish, as is the setting for the final story of the collection, "The Coming of Wisdom with Time." Three of the stories previously rendered by another translator (Margaret Jull Costa) were combined to make José Luis Cuerda's spectacular movie, Butterfly's Tongue, in 1999. These three stories explore a special bond between a boy and his teacher at the onset of the Spanish civil war and show how their idyllic year together ends as the Spanish Republic ends, with pain, grief, and shame. Rivas invokes folklore, fantasy, and psychology to create his 16 miniature dramas, which are highly recommended.
—Jack Shreve

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590200025
  • Publisher: Overlook Press, The
  • Publication date: 7/31/2008
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Manuel Rivas was born in A Coruna, Spain in 1957.  He writes in the Galician language of northwest Spain and is well-known in his native country for his journalism and for teh films made of his prize-winning novles and short stories. 

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