THE LAUREATE: Camilo Jose Cela was born in Padron in Galicia in 1916. He threw himself into the fascist cause during the civil war and stayed with Franco’s regime after the war. Many of his books were too immoral for the ostensibly Catholic government to stomach, so Cela was banned from the press association and had most of his books published in Argentina. He was, of course, loyal to Franco’s regime until it was replaced by King Juan Carlos 1’s regime, at which point he became loyal to the latter. Cela died in 2002.
WHAT I’M READING: Mazurka for Two Dead Men, a book I picked on the strength of its title alone.
REVIEW: Mazurka for Two Dead Men is largely about the people of a village in the mountains in Spain. It talks about all of their sexual adventures and proclivities, their relationships with one another, the general tone of life out in the sticks in Franco’s Spain. But slowly, the story shifts to the past. We see many of the same characters drafted into the civil war, and others complaining about it. Eventually, we get to the end where we find that the blind accordionist Gaudencio, who the narrator insisted only played a certain mazurka on the occasion of two deaths, did play it one more time.
I am being very vague about the story for two reasons. One, it is a very vague story, told in snippets of stream-of-consciousness narration interspersed with dialogue. Two, there is a bit of a mystery in the novel- chances are you’ll see the end coming, but I don’t want to spoil it. I should also mention that there is exactly one break: a three page epilogue at the end is separate from the 300 pages before it. It’s a very interesting stylistic choice, and I approve of it heartily, but it was a pain to read. Worth it, though.
RECOMMENDED: Yes. I’ll be tracking down some of his other work
WHAT’S NEXT: Some of Winston Churchill’s speeches