Books Burn Badly
On 19 August 1936 Hercules the boxer stands on the quayside at Coruņa and watches Fascist soldiers piling up books and setting them alight. It is a moment which transforms a young group of friends, who just weeks before had spent their days sunbathing beneath the lighthouse, into a broken generation.
Out of this incident during the early months of Spain's tragic civil war, Manuel Rivas weaves a colourful tapestry of stories and unforgettable characters to create a panorama of twentieth-century Spanish history. For it is not only the lives of Hercules the boxer and his friends that are tainted by the unending conflict, but also those of a young washerwoman who sees souls in the clouded river water and the stammering son of a judge who uncovers his father's hidden library.
Rivas' depiction of life under Franco's dictatorship reveals violence and betrayal but also irrepressible humour and love, and stands as a testament to the indomitable freedom of the human imagination.
Few novels become classics during their authors' lifetimes, but in Books Burn Badly Manuel Rivas has produced an astonishing masterpiece. This is a poet's evocation of his native land and its collective memory. As the singed pages fly away on the breeze, their stories live on in the minds of their readers.