Teresa Moure is one of Galicia’s most accomplished writers. She is the author of five novels, the most famous of which is Black Nightshade, which received numerous accolades when it was first published, including the Xerais Prize for best novel and the Spanish Critics’ Prize for Galician fiction. She writes essays and theatre. Two essays, Another Language Is Possible and We Re-Queer a New World, received the Ramón Piñeiro Prize for best essay, while A Spring for Aldara won the Rafael Dieste Prize for best play. She has a doctorate in general linguistics and teaches in the faculties of philosophy and philology at Santiago de Compostela University.
Photograph © Francisco Vilabarros
BLACK NIGHTSHADE synopsis
The novel Black Nightshade (448 pages) is divided into four parts. The first part deals with Christina of Sweden, who became queen in 1633 at the age of six, on the death of her father Gustavus Adolphus during the Thirty Years’ War. She is famous for her conversion to Catholicism and removal to Rome, as well as for her patronage of the arts. The year is 1650, when Christina is still in Sweden, and we are introduced to the queen watching the river flow under one of the bridges of the old town in Stockholm, the island Stadsholmen. She wishes to devote herself to writing and indeed she is known to have been prodigious in her studies and knowledge of languages. In the novel, she has fallen in love with the memory of René Descartes, the French philosopher who visited the queen in 1649, following a correspondence between the two about hate and love. It was so cold in her castle that Descartes died there, having contracted pneumonia, in February 1650, shortly before the narrative opens.
This spring Stockholm seems unable to awaken from its winter lethargy. No birds have appeared yet, let alone flowers or butterflies, and the trees are still bare. You could even say the days are finding it difficult to grow longer after such a harsh winter as befell these blessed septentrional lands. Night is falling in Stortorget Square at the heart of the city. Even though it’s not past five in the afternoon, the yellow ochre colour of the whole district is losing its intensity and, in a few minutes, will be as pale as the waters flowing under the bridges, as grey as the waters that have just passed, as cold as the waters that right now are rushing towards the sea and in a moment will have merged with it. In a scene comprising such a withered landscape, with the cold air beating against the faces of passers-by, there is no way for thoughts to be anything other than gloomy. ‘We will never see the waters of this same river go by again.’ For Stortorget is a square between bridges and, on top of that, a sad square linked to life’s violence. Even though there’s no monument to record such an event, in another time Stortorget was the scene of a crime, which the population of Stockholm termed a ‘bloodbath’. In November 1520 the Danish king, Christian II, laid siege to the Swedish regent, Sten Sture the Younger, forcing him to capitulate and the Swedes to accept him as king. He promised them an amnesty and organized a magnificent banquet lasting three days in Tre Kronor castle. Having laughed and drunk, danced, sighed, toasted, sworn, having loved, dozed, drunk and feasted again, embraced, in short having enjoyed the good fortune of being alive, on the third day, as the festivities were drawing to a close, all the participants were arrested, accused of heresy. The following morning, more than eighty citizens, mostly nobles, were beheaded in this square, forever afterwards a square of pain and wounded pride. And yet today no blood flows down Stockholm’s canals, even though the incident can still be felt in the suspicion with which Swedes view outsiders.