The Wrong Bloodby Manuel de Lope
In the Basque Country in northern Spain, just before the Civil War, three men in dinner suits stop for a drink at a bar before continuing on their way to a wedding. Their trip is interrupted when their leader, the wealthy Don Leopoldo, has a stroke in the restroom.This event, bizarre and undignified though it is, begins to weave together the lives of two remarkable… See more details below
In the Basque Country in northern Spain, just before the Civil War, three men in dinner suits stop for a drink at a bar before continuing on their way to a wedding. Their trip is interrupted when their leader, the wealthy Don Leopoldo, has a stroke in the restroom.This event, bizarre and undignified though it is, begins to weave together the lives of two remarkable women: the bride, the beautiful and distinguished Isabel Cruces, and María Antonia Etxarri, the bar owner’s adolescent daughter. Shortly after the outbreak of the war, María Antonia is raped and Isabel’s newlywed husband, Captain Julen Herraiz, is shot. Both women find themselves violently altered, alone, and pregnant. A crippled but wise local doctor is the only witness to the mysterious, silent agreement these women conclude in the loneliness and desperation of their mutual suffering. Many years later, a young student, grandson to Isabel, returns to the scene of the events to spend an innocent summer studying for law exams. As he goes about his work, he unwittingly awakens the ghosts haunting both María Antonia and the doctor, and through their memories the passionate stories of the past unfurl before the reader.
De Lope brilliantly reveals his incredible story through flashes of memory and emotion, told in a winding torrent that expresses the cumulative nature of both history and nostalgia.
“Balancing the domestic and the tragic, The Wrong Blood explores the ways in which political history and personal histories intertwine: it is an invaluable reminder of how, in the midst of war, love and continuity preserve potential for a richer life despite what seems to be utter disaster.” —PRI’s The World
“De Lope evokes his characters’ interior lives and their outer surroundings with equal beauty and intensity. This masterful novel is his first to be translated into English. Let’s hope there are more.” —Booklist
“…the American debut of a celebrated Spanish novelist reads rapturously…the prose...pulsates and palpitates.” —Kirkus Reviews
“De Lope is a masterly writer, constructing a shadowy architecture to house his expansive prose, intertwining plotlines, and themes of misfortune, solitude, and memory. Highly evocative of time and place, this resonant work will linger in readers’ minds. Recommended.” —Library Journal
“Reading The Wrong Blood is like surrendering to a hypnotist. Manuel DeLope’s subject is the fluidity of time and the pitilessness of war as played out in the lives of two women who quietly conspire to commit a victimless crime. The style is a marvel of precision and patience, resulting in an atmosphere so saturated with suspense that I found myself wanting to read more slowly, even as I breathlessly anticipated the next paragraph. I’ve seldom read a more sublime and disturbing novel.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Confessions of Edward Day
“The Wrong Blood is a prose-poem to the furtive compromises that mitigate grief, and allow human survival at desperate times. Written with elegant ambiguity: I loved it.” — Dave Boling, author of Guernica
“The Wrong Blood is a powerful novel suffused from beginning to end with a terrible, suppressed violence. Its chief virtue lies in showing us that war—every war—is like a distorting mirror: the soul never recovers from the monstrous vision reflected there.” — Mayra Montero, author of The Messenger and Dancing to “Almendra”
“Moving and harrowing…the reader has been stirred to the core.” —The Financial Times
“Amid the current outpouring of Civil War fiction in Spain, the books of Manuel de Lope and María Barbal…should be top of interested readers’ lists.” —The Independent
Even in translation, the American debut of a celebrated Spanish novelist reads rapturously.
Though novels are all about language, this one is even more so. The plot is a fairy-tale contrivance; the characters are kept at a psychological remove. Though the Spanish Civil War provides the key to the various intertwineddestinies, it serves as a distant backdrop. What asserts itself most strongly is the author's literary style—the paragraphs that compare in length with those of Henry James, the chronology that hop-scotches across decades and generations as filtered through the consciousness of various characters, the prose that pulsates and palpitates: "An obscene juice oozed from the leaf buds on the tree. The vulvas of the irises were bursting into wine-colored or striped flowers. The power of the black, awakening earth showed itself in a monstrous way. There was a catastrophic essence in that inexorable and tranquil explosion of spring." An essential mystery lies at the heart of the elemental plot, which concerns the lives of two very different young women whom fate brings together. One is María Antonia Etxarri, who works at her stepfather's bar and is raped at the age of 16 by a soldier. The other is Isabel Cruces, who is a few years older than María Antonia and is about to wed a soldier who will be leaving for the war. A rich man traveling to the wedding suffers a stroke at the bar and owes gratitude to María Antonia's family for caring for him. Flash forward a few decades and Isabel is dead, having left her fortune and mansion to María Antonia, who has become her faithful servant. Isabel's grandson arrives at the mansion to study for his law exams and spends some time with their neighbor, a crippled doctor. The doctor knows a secret concerning Isabel and María Antonia. The reader learns it.
Grand themes and extravagant prose trump any hint of literary realism.
The New York Times
- Other Press, LLC
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.70(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Read an Excerpt
The Wrong Blood
By Manuel de Lope
Other PressCopyright © 2010 Manuel de Lope
All right reserved.
The girl crossed her arms, pulled the blanket over her shoulders, and turned around. Neither the lieutenant nor his two men were the ones who were going to rape her. She was afraid to retrace the thirty meters, because her heart was pounding in her chest and she couldn’t see where she was putting her feet. In church, the priests taught the children such behavior, telling them that they had to be obedient, even in time of war, even though they could escape and disappear on the mountain with the cows after setting fire to the hayloft, and then, for decades to come, the house that had sheltered Etxarri’s Bar would be nothing but a burnt patch, a few charred beams on ash-covered ground, and nobody except a very few people would know that María Antonia Etxarri had set the house on fire to save herself from being raped, but instead of doing that, remembering other reasons and other rains, María Antonia obediently mounted the stairs to the room, doing as she had been told, fearing only the barrage of blows she would get from her stepfather should peace ever come.
Excerpted from The Wrong Blood by Manuel de Lope Copyright © 2010 by Manuel de Lope. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Manuel de Lope was born in Burgos, Spain in 1949. At age fifteen he moved to
Madrid where he now resides again, after having lived in Geneva, London, and the South of France for twenty-five years. In 1978 he published his first novel, Albertina en el país de los Garamantes, thus commencing one of the most treasured and significant careers in modern Spanish literature. The Wrong Blood is his first novel to be translated into English.
John Cullen is the translator of many books from the Spanish, French, German, and Italian, including Enrique de Hériz’s Lies, Yasmina Khadra’s Middle East Trilogy (The Swallows of Kabul, The Attack, The Sirens of Baghdad), Christa Wolf’s Medea, and Margaret Mazzantini’s Don’t Move. He lives in upstate New York.
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