A boy runs away to join the war and tells the horrific tales of his incessant travels.
Rodoreda’s last novel creates a nightmare world inhabited by Adrià Guinart, a 15-year-old who leaves “the prison of [his] home” with his friend Rossend. They become separated, and Adrià begins an endless journey, with the destruction and death of war always near. The story plays out in a series of encounters with iconic characters—the hanged man, the miller’s wife, a wise man, a hermit—all within a stark landscape reminiscent of Kafka and the fantastical apparitions of Garcia Márquez. It's a series of fairy tales held together by the narrative of a boy wandering a mythical world. Then the novel takes a different turn with a Gothic interlude. Adrià is taken into a house where Senyor Ardèvol and his housekeeper, Senyora Isabel, care for him, sheltering him from his nightmares in which “Death, with green teeth, sat on the belly of a cloud.” There is respite, and a family atmosphere, except for Ardèvol’s being consumed by an old mirror in the hallway where he sees disembodied eyes next to his own reflection. Adrià reads the papers left to him after Ardèvol’s death and pieces together the story of his life. When he forgoes the inheritance left him by the dead man, the story of wandering the bleak landscape resumes, and Adrià continues on his way to witness “everything that I had just seen but did not exist.”
Poetic, mythical, literate, laced with allusions to the world’s literature, this novel is a stew in which the flavors never quite come together.