Books Burn Badly
A masterpiece by one of Europe's greatest living writers - a brilliant evocation of the Spanish Civil War
On 19 August 1936 Hercules the boxer stands on the quayside at Coruña 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.
Praise for Books Burn Badly
This is an exceptional book by an exceptional writer... a unique literary enterpriseIndependent
A novelistic tour-de-force...hauntingly poetic use of language and light touch...Rivas never loses faith in the human ability to overcome the bleakest of situationsIrish Times
His most substantial work to dateLondon Review of Books
His boldest take yet on the war's repercussions in his native Galicia... a work of unusual beautyFinancial Times
The author reinvigorates the power of the word, the heritage of stories which pass from generation to generation.Emma RodrÃguez, El Mundo
Manuel Rivas writes with lyrical depth about the burning and pillaging of books whose existences are intertwined with a story of suspense that condemns authoritarianism and extols freedom... A novel that could have been history or biography, but is instead a work of literature written by an author at the height of his powers.Jordi Gracia, El PaÃs
Rivas weaves a tapestry of characters into an event that is largely overlooked in historyBig Issue North
It's time for reviewers and sundry pundits to quit the flattering comparisons with Lorca, Joyce and Garcia Marquez. Manuel Rivas reads like no-one else on the planet...one of those novels to lavish on friends... Manuel Rivas' sweeping novel, translated into English for the first time, is an undoubted classicScotsman