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Cover > Translations of catalan literature > Mercè Rodoreda > The Time of the Doves (1962)

The Time of the Doves (1962)

by Carme Arnau
La plaça del Diamant [translated as The Time of the Doves], like every classic novel, is characterized by its complexity and even ambiguity, leading to multiple possible readings of the work; on one hand it is a vital document of the period it embraces—from the proclamation of the Republic until the end of the Civil War—and, on the other, a poetic work, full of density and mystery, focused on living, realistic characters and scenes. In fact, among the greatest achievements of the work are its characters, Colometa in particular, who is the novel's heroine and furthermore, its narrative voice.

The novel is also a portrait of Barcelona and, especially, of one of its characteristic neighborhoods, Gràcia. In a personal, condensed and emotional manner, Rodoreda sheds light on Colometa's life, along with everything that characterized the epoch, as much the day-to-day experiences as the most momentous historical events, among which the Civil War stands out as a source of hardship and death, both at the front and in the city. The post-war period, on the other hand, inflicts a life of anguish and instability, which means at first a lack of vitality and even identity, and ultimately implies exile.

A profoundly visual work, which is characteristic of Rodoreda's style, doves are its leitmotif, with various symbolic meanings––peace, innocence, love. The doves become, with the development of the heroine (who bears the name “little dove”), a mirror for her life. In fact, La plaça del Diamant traverses one of the most classic fictional schemes, the Bildungsroman, the heroine's coming of age story being twofold: at first individual and linked to marriage, it becomes collective and thus related to a dramatic historical moment. In this context, Colometa will live through her most difficult experience, which will lead her to contemplate suicide, once her husband and friends are dead. Hers is a figure characterized by innocence––an innocence that attracts the author as creator––and, at the same time, strength, allowing her to overcome all tests and bringing her to maturity, leaving youth behind, as the novel says, like the shedding of old skin.

At the same time, La plaça del Diamant transcends the strictly concrete and offers us an image of the modern man/woman, with the fears and anguish that characterize them. In fact, it is a novel of the human condition, and one of its central themes is loneliness, but also the crisis of identity, which was in that epoch a broken identity. To express this, the author negotiates a theme both classic and contemporary: metamorphosis, as in Kafka's case, and that of his models. In this way, Rodoreda demonstrates the indubitable universality of her most-often translated novel, well situated within the European panorama.

La plaça del Diamant also shows visible fingerprints of the French and North American novelists, especially Faulkner. In addition, we see the perpetual interest Rodoreda (a voracious and attentive reader) took in the German romantics in general and Novalis in particular. It is no coincidence, then, that La plaça del Diamant mentions the symbolic blue flower prevalent in Novalis' Heinrich von Ofterdingen , which was well known by Rodoreda. Hers is a novel born of memory, following one of the great authors of the twentieth century, Proust; it is worth pointing out that one of the other great achievements of the work is its style, with an apparently simple, but very literary and studious language. In fact, Rodoreda, who wanted to employ a colloquial tone, uses words and expressions that are strongly idiomatic but that also borrow from various poets, above all those who always accompanied her, Verlaine, Poe and especially Baudelaire. Using artifice to create style characterizes all great artists, among which must figure Mercè Rodoreda.

Translated by Robin Vogelzang
Mercè Rodoreda, fotògraf desconegut, 1980 (AHCB-AF)
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