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On the Edge, Chirbes’s masterpiece, arrives as a message in a bottle among all the cans, rusting appliances, and tangled tackle. The fumes of the lagoon mix with the lingering sulfur of the Atocha railway-station bombing; the Spanish economy has all but collapsed. Who, or what, is to blame? Chirbes’s novel accuses everyone.

—Joshua Cohen, Harper's

On the Edge is a monumental fresco of a brutal contemporary Spain in free fall

On the Edge

Fiction by Rafael Chirbes

translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa
with a contribution by Valerie Miles

On the Edge opens in a swamp on the outskirts of Olba, Spain, a town wracked by despair after the economic bubble bursts. Stuck in this corrupt, defeated town is Esteban—his small factory bankrupt and his investments stolen by a "friend." Much of the novel unfolds in Esteban's raw and tormented monologues. But other voices resound from the wreckage—soloists stepping forth from the choir with their own terse, hypnotic rants about debt, prostitution, and ruin. However, now and again, with his own majestic authorial voice, Chirbes interrupts the chorus, allowing a lyrical note to usher in profound if uncertain hopes. On the Edge, as Valerie Miles writes in her afterword, "is masterful, a centrifugal novel with sentences like sticky tentacles that clutch onto readers and suck them into a swirling, tempestuous, pulsating center."

published January 25th, 2016
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