The worlds of humans and animals, of past and present, blend amusingly together in this magical 1994 novel from the Spanish author (The Carpenter’s Pencil, 2001).
In the village of Aran, in Galicia, a young girl (Rosa) notices a fresco that has suddenly appeared on a church wall, depicting gorgeously arrayed females whom she presumes to be saints. Aran’s priest, Don Xil, however, assures his parishioners that the figures are embodiments of the Seven Deadly Sins. This accusation was perhaps unwise, for Don Xil dies—and is reincarnated as a mouse, partial to dining on the contents of a local manor’s vast library, including miscellaneous periodicals. As years pass, Rosa grows up and marries, bears her brutal husband Cholo three children, befriends the wealthy old woman (Misia) who returns to the manor house (where she’d grown up) to die, and takes a lover: “Spiderman,” recently returned from working on a construction gang in New York City. These events, as well as the quixotic-romantic adventures of Rosa’s slow-witted brother Simon (who’s mute, except when conversing with animals), are observed and discussed by the “transmigrated” Don Xil and other similarly altered souls, such as the 300 crows (former poets in the service of medieval Galician monarchs) that fly above Aran; a onetime “producer of crime” for films and television who’s now a lizard; an anarchist who’s become (to Don Xil’s alarm) a cat, and a lady fortuneteller who is now a mole (and hence, of course, blind). Misia’s tales of her vanished flamboyant youth also become part of a roiling narrative that reaches a wonderful climax after Spiderman restores to health a wounded fox caught in a trap, enabling Rosa to achieve her long-desired liberation.
An ingenious conjoining of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Kipling’s animal tales and Galician folklore, all in an effervescent fiction that vibrates with wit, energy and charm.