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Cremation by Rafael Chirbes

Cremation is a stream-of-monologue masterpiece that harkens to Beckett and Faulkner. When Matias, the patriarch of a rich Spanish family, dies, it sets off psychological battles among the surviving members. These spats take the form of unbroken pages-long conversations and thoughts, going beyond the closet-drama scope to encompass architecture, economics, corruption, art, and the consequences of 20th century European history. Towards the end, the fictional town of Misent turns into a character, much after the fashion of Durrell’s Alexandria, but more bitter and disillusioned. By the end of a reading, these incredible speeches come through like blasts of hot air over rivers of concrete.

Cremation by Rafael Chirbes, (List Price: $20.95, New Directions, 9780811224307, November 2021)

Reviewed by Conor Hultman, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi


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