Un segle de prodigis
"La boira del temps destrueix la muralla del nostre passat, però a Un segle de prodigis, Roser Caminals, amb la destresa d'un mestre picapedrer, armada de sinceritat, humor subtil, vius diàlegs i detalls d'època, i amb el coratge de prescindir de la nostàlgia, alça una paret de memòries a prova del temps, per tal que les puguem reviure."
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"At one point, Francesca, the narrator of this novel, while engaged in an intellectual discussion that moves from lexicology, to literature, to films, to illusion an reality, and to whether God has created us or we have created God, declares: "To me it's not whether human actions matter in any transcendental way but whether they have the power to capture our fancy, to intrigue and fascinate us; and I think they only attain this power when the dialectic doerwatcher is present" (p. 149). In Once Remembered, Twice Lived, Caminals-Heath reproduces human actions that have the power to capture our fancy and recreates characters that intrigue and fascinate us.
This novel covers a time span of seventy-five years, from 1901 to 1976, and traces the story of two Catalan families of stoic shopkeepers and dreamy artists from Barcelona. Caminals-Heath anchors the lives of her characters into their time and place by period details and historical events, the most relevant and consequential of which is the Spanish Civil War. Of the score or so "ghosts" (as the narrator calls her ascendants), that are brought back to life, in this remembrance of things past, the most intriguing and fascinating is Maria. She is exuberant, moody, unconventional. She lives life with great intensity sleeping during most of the day, staying up until dawn, and capable of drinking thirteen bottles of Orange Crush in one seating. She considers men bastards but men are instantly vulnerable to her charm and powers of seduction. Such are her powers of seduction that, while a patient at a mental institution, "Maria had seduced the gardener, a maintenance worker, three patients, the driver of the Coca-Cola truck, two male nurses, and, what was more serious and unprecedented, the psychotherapist specializing in sexual disorders" (p. 132). Her personal tragedy, which unfolds throughout the novel in unchronological fashion, haunts the reader and makes Maria an unforgettable character. Even the narrator realizes that Maria, "a ghost even when she lived, intrigues and eludes me now as she did then. She winks at me with a teasing smile that means, "See if you can figure out who I really was"" (p. 1).
Caminals-Heath's writing is polished, colorful, rich. Her dialogue is crisp, colloquial, engaging. The mood she creates alternates between humor and tragedy, innocence and cynicism, nostalgia and pragmatism, surrealism and realism. What distinguishes this novel from the prototype of the genre to which it belongs is its structure. Caminals-Heath avoids the linear, chronological representation of events in favor of a puzzle-like structures, where scenes are brought to life, so to speak, in defiance of the laws of time and respectful only of the order in which they are recalled by the memory of the narrator. The puzzle does not take its final form and the picture is not fully formed, and thus the lives of the characters and the story of the two families are not complete, until the last of the thirty-five "memories" is relived. This novel can be and will be enjoyed by any reader. The American reader unfamiliar with Catalonia, its culture, and its people will discover a different, fascinating world. This novel has a particular appeal for those Catalans who have lived through some of the historical periods depicted. For them, once read, this novel allows them to relive part of their common story. This is Roser Caminals-Health's first novel. It augurs well for her novelistic career."
(Manuel A. Esteban: Catalan Review Yale University, California State University, Chico)
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"Un segle de prodigis, publicada recentment per Editorial Columna i que aquesta setmana ha arribat a les llibreries vilanovines, és el títol de la primera novel·la de la professora Roser Caminals Gost, una barcelonina que resideix a Frederick, una ciutat de l'estat nord-americà de Maryland situada a prop de Washington, i que des de fa 20 anys estiueja a Vilanova i la Geltrú. Roser Caminals, que es defineix en la línia de la novel·lística catalana marcada per autores com Montserrat Roig o Mercè Rodoreda, havia escrit fins ara crítica i havia realitzat traduccions. El primer treball important que va signar va ser la traducció a l'anglès de Los pazos de Ulloa, d'Emilia Pardo Bazán."
(Pere Gimferrer: El Temps, núm. 955, 1 d'octubre de 2002)