The Back Room by Carmen Martin Gaite

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Synopsis

Chapter One

THE BAREFOOT MAN

... AND YET I'D swear that the position was the same-I think I've always slept this way, with my right arm underneath the pillow and my body turned slightly over onto that side, my feet searching for the place where the sheet is tucked in. What's more, if I close my eyes - and I end up closing them as a last, routine resort - I am visited by a long-familiar apparition, always the same: a parade of stars, each with a clown's face, that go soaring up like a balloon that's escaped and laugh with a frozen grin, following one after the other in a zigzag pattern, like spirals of smoke gradually becoming thicker and thicker. There are so many of them that in a little while there won't be any room left for them and they'll have to descend to seek more space in the riverbed of my blood, and then they'll be petals that the river carries away. At the moment they're rising in bunches. I see the minuscule face drawn in the center of each one of them, like a cherry pit surrounded by spangles. But what never changes is the tune that accompanies the ascent, a melody that can't be heard yet marks the beat, a special silence whose very denseness makes it count more than it would if it could be heard. This was the most typical thing back then too. I recognized that strange silence as being the prelude to something that was about to happen. I breathed slowly, I felt my insides pulsing, my ears buzzing, and my blood locked in. At any moment - where exactly? - that ascending multitude would fall and swell the invisible inner flow like an intravenous drug, capable of altering all my visions. And I was wide awake, awaiting the prodigious change, so lightning-quick that there was never a night when I managed to trap the very instant of its sudden stealthy appearance as I lay in wait there, watching for it eagerly and fearfully, just as I'm doing now.

But that's not true, it wasn't just the same, the exact feel of the waiting was different. I have said "eagerly and fearfully," just to hear myself talk, groping my way along blindly, and when one takes a shot at random that way, one never hits the bull's-eye. Words are for the light. At night they run away, though the heat of the chase is more f

 

About Carmen Martin Gaite

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Carmen was born in Salamanca. Her other novels include La Reina de Las Nieves, which won the Spanish national prize for literature.
 
Published November 1, 1983 by Columbia Univ Pr. 210 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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The man, however, remains a gentleman--despite one odd interlude (a phone call, apparently from the man's girl friend) which charges the evening with sexual possibility.

Nov 01 1983 | Read Full Review of The Back Room

Publishers Weekly

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The winner of Spain's 1978 National Prize for Literature, Gaite's postmodern novel interweaves dreams and fantasies with autobiography and Spanish history, resulting in a book that is complex and elusive, but more than worth the effort.

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