One of the best novels of the year
Proa cover_3011
Proa: Senyoria
A review by Josep Maria Huertas

If this country were not so beholden to the whims of literary fashion, Senyoria would be the most talked-about novel of the year. One reason is that not many good new novels get published; another is that the solidity Jaume Cabré has acquired as a writer is unusual among his generation; and the third would be that such a well-honed balance between plot and character is hardly an everyday achievement.

Cabré plays skilfully with the counterpoint of almost absurd irony in this historical fresco, in a manner similar to that which has won Eduardo Mendoza popularity and acclaim. But if I am permitted a bit of blasphemy in the world of cultural mandarinism, Cabré beats Mendoza at the game, at least if we compare Senyoria with his last important novel, the fabled La ciudad de los prodigios. Some of Mendoza's passages, too heavily seasoned in an attempt to follow the satirical tradition of the country, were simply hard to swallow. On the other hand, Cabré's material goes down smoothly as he succeeds in getting just about everything to work, even the ironies surrounding his central character, His Honour.

The story is a reflection on abuse of power, through the figure of the civil regent of the Royal High Court of Barcelona, with his attendant corruptions and self-justifications. Throughout, the toughness of the story has two counterpoints: the epistolary lyricism of the friendship between Andreu and Nando, the latter of whom is none other than the musician Ferran Sors (Sorts in the book), and an exquisite description of the life and customs of late 17th-century Barcelona. Although, like Mendoza, the author plays with anachronisms when it suits him, they fit perfectly into the plot.

Another of the book's virtues is the strength with which Cabré describes the characters, who serve his historical fiction without ever seeming lifeless archetypes. Senyoria is, along with Fra Junoy o l'agonia dels sons, the best from a novelist who takes all the time he needs to compose his works. The results are there for all to see: a writer with the makings of a solid, classical author - of those who, when all is said and done, shape literature.

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