Antón Riveiro Coello
Antón Riveiro Coello is one of the most promising writers of his generation. He has published eight novels, the most famous of which are Bakunin’s Turtledoves (winner of the García Barros Prize for best novel in 2000) and Laura in the Desert (winner of the Spanish Critics’ Prize for Galician fiction in 2011). He also has several collections of short stories, including most recently Casas Baratas, stories set in the provincial town where the author grew up, and Water Ghosts, as well as essays, children’s literature and poetry. Having studied law at Santiago de Compostela University, Riveiro Coello was a civil servant before devoting himself full-time to writing.
Photograph © Eduardo Castro Bal
BAKUNIN’S TURTLEDOVES synopsis
Bakunin’s Turtledoves (260 pages) is one of a series of novels dealing with the antecedents, duration and aftermath of the Spanish Civil War (1936-9). Three intertwined narratives trace the life of a Galician anarchist, Camilo Sabio Doldán, and of a book with no title or author’s name, which he is trying to recover.
I know I shouldn’t complain since, as far as things go, I am a privileged man, seventy-six years old, an iron constitution, a family with whom I share great affection, a generous income, a head that still works, and this poor Lázaro, who does so much to lighten the final stretch of my existence. But despite all this, Rosalía, I miss your thick silence in front of the hearth, our marriage of absences which we undertook with love and, like a standard, paraded around America. I know I’m being foolish, but I can’t help the memories constantly searching me out and rummaging through my insides. What can you say, my turtledove? Time does away with scruples and dignifies those early mornings when you raised your fearsome cries to make me jump out of bed and harness the oxen, since you hated it if you heard Xan de Castro or Paco Uzal’s carts anticipating the cock crow and broadcasting through the valley the harsh sound of their wheels, a piercing moan that emanated from the axles like the screams of a child.
You should see what has become of our little home. Branca, our daughter, who used to stay away from the village, has got it into her head to put everything back the way it was and bring out all the junk that was stored in the cellar: the chestnut bench, smoked stools, the trough where you used to chop the cabbage… and lots of other things that were thrown out in deference to modernity and have now returned to the kitchen with their aristocratic airs. They swept the hearth and hung old implements on the walls: the firedogs, tongs, bellows, trivets, spits… The only thing they removed was the cauldron that used to hang on the hook, since there was no way of getting rid of all that rusty blackness. Even those blue cups with their dainty patterns your parents gave us for our wedding are proudly displayed on the sideboard, alongside the ceramic from Sargadelos. Everything has acquired a brand-new sheen, the beds, iron headboards, wash-basins, the flaming glare of varnished wood, the polished stone of the entrance…