The booming post-Franco years have left everything up for grabs along a stretch of the Mediterranean coastline of Spain: real-estate developers scramble to transform the once pastoral landscape into resorts, nightclubs, and beachfront properties with lavish pools. Cremation opens with the death of Matías, a paterfamilias who had rejected all of these changes and whose passing sets off a chain reaction, uncovering guilts and resentments that had been buried for years and leading those closest to him to question the paths they’ve chosen.
In a rich mosaic narrative, filled with a hypnotic chorus of voices, Cremation explores the coked-up champagne fizz of luxurious parties and underworlds of political corruption, prostitution, and ruthless financial speculation. The novel follows the melancholy ouroboros of capitalist greed that led to the financial crash and captures something essential about our values, our choices, and our all-too-human mistakes. Like William Faulkner or Francis Bacon, Chirbes stares clear-eyed into the abyss and portrays us as we really are.
A densely powerful writer—Chirbes is bravely faithful to the shape that true internal discourse takes."
—Norman Rush, New York Review of Books
Chirbes’ novel is a quite powerful book of testimonies and experiences, an indictment of post-Franco Spain that has barreled more or less blindly ahead, damn to many of the consequences.
The works of the late Spanish novelist Rafael Chirbes offer a rebuke to what we might call lifestyle literature. Two of his final novels, Cremation and On the Edge, both published in translation by New Directions, reclaim a decayed form of modernism to castigate the late aughts’ feast of mammon.
—Dustin Illingworth, The Baffler
Chirbes imbues the characters with passion and intellect…what emerges is a strong sense of late 20th-century Spanish culture and politics.
A man’s death stirs thoughts among his family and friends, who are also connected by their experience of Spain’s economic surge through the early aughts. A challenging excursion from one of Europe’s most distinctive voices.
—Kirkus (starred review)
Utterly convincing in its psychological details, but also memorable for the beauty of its writing and rhythms.