A Man­u­script of Ash­es: A Novel

Anto­nio Muñoz Moli­na, Edith Gross­man, trans.
  • Review
By – January 9, 2012
As in his ear­li­er nov­els, Moli­na mas­ter­ful­ly weaves a col­or­ful tale of intrigue involv­ing dark moments from an individual’s past as well as tan­gled events from the his­to­ry of a nation. In the ebbing days of Franco’s regime, Minaya, a uni­ver­si­ty stu­dent pas­sion­ate about lit­er­a­ture and his home­land, becomes involved in protests against the dic­ta­tor. Hound­ed by the police, he escapes to the coun­try estate of his uncle Manuel, his head full of the sto­ries about this estate that his father had passed along to him as a child. Curi­ous about his per­son­al past, he begins to unrav­el the shroud­ed secrets about his uncle’s past and his uncle’s rela­tion­ship with the poet Jac­in­to Solana, the sub­ject of Minaya’s uni­ver­si­ty the­sis. Manuel’s coun­try house yields a trea­sure trove of Solana’s pho­tographs, notes, and jour­nals. As Minaya begins his search through these mate­ri­als to find Solana’s nov­el, Bea­t­us Ille, he dis­cov­ers that his uncle had been engaged to a woman, Mar­i­ana, whom Solana had also loved. As Minaya and his uncle’s maid, Inés, look fur­ther, they find clues to oth­er unsolved mys­ter­ies and, in an appro­pri­ate post­mod­ern twist, read­ers dis­cov­er that they have been read­ing this lost man­u­script. (Bea­t­us Ille) is the Span­ish title of Molina’s nov­el.) Although Grossman’s trans­la­tion some­times feels wood­en and life­less, Moli­na cre­ates a com­pelling world wor­thy of a Buñuel film.
Hen­ry L. Car­ri­g­an, Jr. writes about books for Pub­lish­ers Week­ly, Library Jour­nal, Book­Page, and Fore­Word. He has writ­ten for numer­ous news­pa­pers includ­ing the Atlanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion, The Char­lotte Observ­er, The Cleve­land Plain Deal­er, The Orlan­do Sen­tinel, The Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor, and The Wash­ing­ton Post Book World.

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