Anxo Rei Ballesteros
Anxo Rei Ballesteros was a highly accomplished writer who combined the use of different narrative techniques with a critical, philosophical approach to the world we live in. He wrote four novels, the last published posthumously: Of Angels and the Dead, Sun-Ray, Will I See You Again? and Night of the Little Owl. He also published a book of short stories, The Shadow of Your Dreams. His essay Time and Revenge, a study of time through the prism of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, won the Ramón Piñeiro Prize for best essay. He also wrote a play, Draught Games, and produced versions of Samuel Beckett’s Molloy and Jean Cocteau’s The Human Voice in Galician. He died in 2008.
Photograph © María Xesús Armada
OF ANGELS AND THE DEAD synopsis
Of Angels and the Dead (174 pages) follows the lives of some university students in Santiago de Compostela during the 1970s. It was regarded as a groundbreaking novel when it was first published in 1977, shortly after the end of Franco’s dictatorship, for the way it used different narrative techniques. It opened up new possibilities for the Galician novel.
OF ANGELS AND THE DEAD
‘So what then, lads, are we off?’ Xoán carried on staring at the telly with sleepy eyes. His eyelids were swollen, the whites of his eyes lined with small, bloody veins of a yellow, pallid colour. He’d barely slept the night before. He hadn’t been to bed in two nights. He would read. Or go out on the town, boozing copiously and breakfasting on coffee and croissants in the Galicia, which opened at five. Now his head hurt. Not overly. It was an angry, superficial pain that didn’t go away: softly, softly… He inhaled deeply and blew the smoke into Guillerme’s face. One leg on top of the other, unenthusiastically, smoking calmly (you have to smoke slowly, see, like this, lazily, bit by bit, with a certain style, blow the smoke out sweetly through your nose or half-open, weary mouth), though he found it difficult to enunciate any words, to speak, to have to say, ‘Come on then, let’s go,’ to have to say, ‘No, leave it, wait,’ to have to say in a whisper, ‘My God, what a state I’m in!’ even though he found it difficult (Nogueira didn’t say a word, Pose neither, he gazed with golden, motionless eyes at the television screen), he managed to reply in a bland, weak voice, ‘So what we going to do then?’
‘I don’t fucking know,’ said Guillerme. ‘Go for a wander. Stretch our legs.’
Xoán used his hand to comb his long, excessively curly locks, which spilled down his forehead (‘Why don’t you get a haircut, son, you look a real sight,’ his mother had said when she left), damp, greasy locks he allowed to grow with pleasure, which twisted a little in the rain, like the down on his skin after a shower.
He slowly lifted the cup to his lips and unenthusiastically sipped the dark, bitter liquid of cold, acidic coffee that had lost its taste. He didn’t feel exactly extenuated as a result of the lack of sleep over two nights (he’d only slept a couple of hours today, before lunch), or ill either, or even really melancholy.