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The Yellow Rain – Julio Llamazares

25 Jul

BlackOverBill'sMother'sAinielle is a village high in the Spanish Pyrenees. Its houses now stand deserted – and have done so for many years – most of them in ruins. Its last surviving inhabitant, an old man at death’s door, lingers on, and as the first snows of the year fall and the “yellow rain” of autumn leaves flutter about him, he recalls the life he lived and the ghosts – once his friends and neighbours – who now frequent his wavering memory and who have taken possession of his solitude.. Hailed on first publication, and continuously reprinted, Julio Llamazares’ powerful monologue – an elegy to the power of memory – is rightly regarded as a modern classic of Spanish literature.

The Yellow Rain is a studied meditation of solitude in monologue from one man, on his reminiscences of life within a small sphere of existence.  The narrator is nearing the end of his life and taking his stock of his impact on people and the legacy he will leave behind.

Andrés (the narrator) inhabits an abandoned village, entirely emptied out except for nature and within its ruins; this atmospheric, lonely and decaying place is played out a fine balancing act of mourning.  The loss of his neighbours is weighed against bringing forth memories of those times to keep his world alive.

There is a melancholy air of time being worn out, Andrés’ reflections and thoughts are the only thing keeping the village alive.  The almost dead nature of the locale is a mirror image of his bodily decay, the physical ruins of both slowly diminishing into that inevitable state.

The frequent mentions of yellow rain accompanying the story is interesting, the rain not only gives a different feel to every season in its description but it also represents the flow of time which moves around strangely, as erratically presented through the narrator’s nostalgic recollections.  As he declines, his loneliness becomes palpable and yet not, within the confines of this sparse yet familiar existence.

The book is a tying up of memories before nature takes its linear course.  Ainielle has lost the rich history of its life and culture due to the lack of continuation of occupation and neglect.  Generations move to cities for more opportunities, war comes too close and eventually people forget; the inevitable shunning and superstitions brew up from the desolation and create a lament of the forgotten and the left behind.

What is lost in terms of both human and cultural experience has already started, as the book gives us little in the way of a wider and more in-depth history.  The narrator’s inward look is all we are treated to, which is nonetheless a very moving and sombre experience.  We shouldn’t forget though that a life of loss and loss of life, gives rebirth a chance; if only we would remember to pay attention at the time and not only have the half remembered ghosts as a reminder.

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59 Comments

Posted by on 25/07/2016 in Fiction

 

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59 responses to “The Yellow Rain – Julio Llamazares

  1. Jessica

    25/07/2016 at 16:46

    Is this one of the books where not a lot happens, plot-wise? I find I have to be in the right mindset before diving into those very introspective types of books — do you have the same problem?

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    • Ste J

      25/07/2016 at 16:50

      I could describe it as ‘old bloke potters around, minor drama happens’, it is a good read though and at 130 pages, it doesn’t repeat itself too much. Like you I prefer to know the type of book before I dive in, I tried to read this and couldn’t due to distractions so read it a while later and as I was aware of the style, then it was easier to get into. I try and mix up the genres as much as possible though to keep things flowing.

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  2. Liz

    25/07/2016 at 17:44

    You really manage to find the most fascinating books. This sounds very interesting and moving.

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    • Ste J

      25/07/2016 at 17:48

      This one has been on my wish list for ages, not sure where I came across it originally but I am glad I kept it on there. I love discovering books like this, which are still not too well known in their English translations.

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      • Liz

        25/07/2016 at 17:50

        Indeed. It is good to think that there are all sorts of translated gems out there just waiting to be discovered….

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        • Ste J

          25/07/2016 at 17:54

          It bothers me sometimes that I don’t have time with everything else to learn another language to a good standard, as others do it and tantalise me with books I can’t read. It’s sadistic!

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          • Liz

            25/07/2016 at 18:12

            I know what you mean. One thing I am always conscious of when reading a translation is that, no matter how skilled the translator, I am not reading the text that was originally written and crafted by the author. I took French and German to a pretty fluent level while at school, but it has been difficult to keep them up over the years. And in any case, when I think of all the myriad languages which come to us in translated form, it would be hard to cover all the bases. So all credit to those who can for our benefit.

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            • Ste J

              25/07/2016 at 18:17

              Too true, there are some amazingly dedicated translators out there and I suppose by reading more than one translation it gives an intriguing look into interpretation as well as flow of the writing. I find that a good second place for all those languages I cannot read myself.

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              • Liz

                25/07/2016 at 18:28

                That is definitely an interesting suggestion, and adds an extra layer to one’s interaction with a single book. It reminds me a bit of my dissertation for my MA – on British Cinema History (a fab excuse to watch loads of old films!). I compared the nine film adaptations of three books to look at different celluloid interpretations (The Thirty Nine Steps, Kipps and A Christmas Carol). Great fun.

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                • Ste J

                  25/07/2016 at 18:40

                  Nice choice of films! I haven’t seen or read Kipps yet, shame on me, it is on my bookshelf somewhere though. That would make an excellent blog post as well methinks!

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                  • Liz

                    25/07/2016 at 18:47

                    Interestingly, it turned out that all the films were, to a greater or lesser extent, pretty true to the books. These days, I avoid like the plague engaging with the film of a book I have enjoyed, or vice versa – it is rare for there to be good pairings, I find.

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                    • Ste J

                      25/07/2016 at 18:53

                      Very true, these days they are usually ‘reimaginings’ of the book and they are a disappointment pretty much every time. I can never read Big Fish as I enjoyed the film back in the day. I do remember a lot of adventure films back in the day included a love interest where their wasn’t one in the book but I can cope with that. Alistair Sim’s A Christmas Carol was a fine film!

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                    • Liz

                      25/07/2016 at 19:08

                      All three of the Christmas Carol films I studied are wonderful. Alastair Sim is a class act, as is Albert Finney and Seymour Hicks – three fine Scrooges! Glancing back at my text, I am reminded that prior to 1984, Dickens’ novels had been adapted for screen over 3,000 times. That’s a lot of viewing! Kipps is a good read – semi-autobiographical and a classic tale about what happens when someone who is poor unexpectedly comes in to money. You definitely should dig it out from your shelves some time!

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                    • Ste J

                      26/07/2016 at 17:54

                      I found my copy! For some reason the bright orange dust jacket escaped me the first time, I knew there was another apart from the cover that I picked it up. 3000 times is a bit epic! I enjoyed the Patrick Stewart version as well, I think if you are doing A Christmas Carol, you can’t go far wrong if you stick close to Dickens.

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  3. Alastair Savage

    25/07/2016 at 19:54

    Tip-top review sir. I might try and read this one in the original Spanish, then.

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    • Ste J

      26/07/2016 at 17:47

      Apparently it is heralded as a bit of a classic over there. I am sure the original text will hold a lot more poetic prose than the translation. It would be an interesting compare and contrast at any rate.

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  4. Jill Weatherholt

    25/07/2016 at 21:33

    Thanks for the review, Ste J! I like your last statement.

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    • Ste J

      26/07/2016 at 17:51

      The introspection of the book rubbed off on me, it’s good to make the review a little more universal as well, even to those of my readers who aren’t huge book fans.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  5. gargoylebruce

    25/07/2016 at 21:42

    Lives in an abandoned village? But where does he buy his Bovril?

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    • Ste J

      26/07/2016 at 17:43

      He goes without, that’s the one and only reason that he is prone to introspection, I fear.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  6. clarepooley33

    26/07/2016 at 02:06

    I love books like this – thanks for the introduction Ste!

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    • Ste J

      26/07/2016 at 18:02

      I notice a lot of bloggers are reading further afield recently with regards to authors from far flung countries and I love reading the thoughts on them but I wonder if the balance is a little off kilter and we should also keep an eye on the more local books as well. I hate missing anything.

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      • clarepooley33

        27/07/2016 at 01:53

        I tend to read local books and have to make a real effort to read any book written outside Britain whether foreign language translation or not. I’m nearly 58 and time is running out!

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        • Ste J

          30/07/2016 at 14:07

          Time is against us all, too many good books deserve out attention. I would recommend Irene Némirovsky if you do fancy a good read and is pretty much guaranteed to be in stock at W.H.Smiths. Of the seven I have read so far, they have all been very strong reads to say the least.

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          • clarepooley33

            31/07/2016 at 00:06

            Thank-you Ste. I’ve read Suite Francaise and will have to try her other ones.

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            • Ste J

              31/07/2016 at 14:46

              I’m saving Suite Francaise until I’ve read all the others, although I may crack and read it soon anyway.

              Liked by 1 person

               
  7. Liz Dexter

    26/07/2016 at 08:02

    That sounds a very profound and moving book. I’m reading a silly book about running at the moment, so it’s interesting to read about other kinds of books!

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    • Ste J

      26/07/2016 at 17:59

      Ditto that my friend, we bloggers are lucky to share around the books we read. Frivolous books are good to let the mind assimilate all the literature you’ve read. I try and indulge in some Where’s Wally at least once a month for just that reason.

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  8. Resa

    28/07/2016 at 21:46

    Hmm, it sounds like 100 Years Of Solitude” ‘s poor distant relative. Nonetheless, you’ve intrigued me.

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    • Ste J

      30/07/2016 at 13:27

      I love to intrigue, it’s why I always wear a cape and keep to the shadows. There is a little of the Márquez feel in it but being based on a single character it’s a whole different ball game, so to speak. 100 Years is one of those books that little lives up to, I love that book.

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  9. LuAnn

    29/07/2016 at 14:45

    This one is definitely being put on my wish list Ste J. I think it behooves us all to read an introspective book now and again. I must say that this review is most beautifully written.

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    • Ste J

      30/07/2016 at 13:52

      Thank you my friend, I found this one easier to write, I must be getting back into the swing of it. Introspection usually reminds us of something or gives us some lesson and that makes them indispensable, Although Marquez does it better in my opinion, this is still a great read.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  10. The Book Haven

    29/07/2016 at 17:32

    A few days back, I was having an argument with one of my colleagues regarding translated books. Considering how much can be “lost in translation”, the translated work could be new book altogether. I cannot deny how much I enjoyed reading Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Emile Zola and a whole lot of Russian and French writers in English. However, translation IMHO works best for crime fiction like ones by Gérard de Villiers where you have little to lose in terms literary value. What’s your opinion?

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    • Ste J

      30/07/2016 at 13:37

      Interesting you talk of crime, I was over on another blog and there was talk of how some parts wouldn’t be shocking to a European audience, that the Japanese market would find effective. It does make one wonder how much is lost in translation when it comes to recreating that, I mean to be the best translator would demand intimate knowledge of the society that the author comes from, otherwise the feel could be tailored for the target country…it is an intriguing question. I found Némirovsky and Márquez to be particularly moving so even if it is a different book tit would still deserve being lauded. The only way to appreciate all the books would be to learn all the languages and that is a challenge and a half.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  11. aliceatwonderland

    29/07/2016 at 20:37

    I will have to check out this book, now that I know “yellow rain” is not what I thought it was at first.

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    • Ste J

      30/07/2016 at 13:47

      Lol…your mind. Of course you are referring to the yellow rain that was blamed on the Soviets back in the day…yes that is the only other interpretation of that…honest.

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  12. anna amundsen

    30/07/2016 at 22:08

    I have the feeling I’ve heard about this one before.. Very intriguing! – will put it on my list if it happens not to be there.
    (Now that they shut Shelfari I have to start the record almost from the beginning. :/)

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    • Ste J

      31/07/2016 at 15:58

      Shelfari? What ist das? I stick everything on an Amazon wishlist even though I have only ever purchased a handful of books off there!

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      • anna amundsen

        31/07/2016 at 19:53

        It was a social site for book cataloging. Amazon owned it actually. I liked it because it had nice shelves!

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        • Ste J

          01/08/2016 at 14:54

          It’s sad when things like this are closed down, do people not think of the readers!

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          • anna amundsen

            06/08/2016 at 09:32

            They thought – why have Shelfari when we have Goodreads, I suppose.. Eeeh..

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            • Ste J

              10/08/2016 at 18:04

              That’s unfair on all the users who prefer that site, sadly.

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  13. Daisy Riley

    30/07/2016 at 23:39

    I’ve never come across this before but it seems really interesting. You’ve made me want to give it a read!

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    • Ste J

      31/07/2016 at 15:37

      It is an intimate look at life, it’s a short book but well worth a read. I couldn’t find it in the bookshops so went on Amazon for it, something I rarely do!

      Liked by 1 person

       
  14. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder

    01/08/2016 at 00:46

    “an elegy to the power of memory”- this sounds beautiful. I loved the way you’ve described/reviewed the book. I’m going to read it…have to search it on AmazonIN.
    Thank you… 🙂

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    • Ste J

      01/08/2016 at 14:45

      I love inspiring people to read the books I love, it is always exciting to know someone else will get the joy out of a book that I did.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  15. shadowoperator

    01/08/2016 at 13:27

    You mention, Ste J, that there is no wider perspective given of the world around the main (and only true) character. I’ve never read the book, but perhaps there’s a parallel being drawn between the actual aging nearsightedness of life and the enforced emotional and spiritual “nearsightedness” of a man forced to live with others only in memory? Just a guess.

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    • Ste J

      01/08/2016 at 15:07

      That makes sense, his lack of need for others, except for the odd necessary time allows him to dwell in his small universe, happily enough. His body slowly failing becomes an inseparable motif with that of the village and that is haunting for everybody who reads the book I would guess.

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  16. Claire 'Word by Word'

    11/08/2016 at 09:48

    Oh I’m so pleased to see you found a copy of this and read it, it was one of my favourite reads from last year and was recommended to my by Col @ColS61

    Yes, it’s quiet and reflective and not a lot happens, although the departure of his wife is quite dramatic!! But the prose is spectacular and enhances that elegiac feeling that comes across as another village in the Pyrenees disappears into the undergrowth, an old man forgotten, leaving little trace.

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    • Ste J

      11/08/2016 at 11:34

      I had to order it offline due to fruitless searching for the last couple of years but it was well worth the wait. I withheld the wife stuff to give impact but yes it is certainly a scene that impresses itself on the reader. It’s good to read a book that is not so well known on these shores and to push others to read it and feel that melancholy of lives and places quietly disappeared.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Claire 'Word by Word'

        11/08/2016 at 14:25

        A lot of these real gems that I’ve been recommended by bloggers I’ve had to find in dark dusty corners of the world, I’m sure my hardcover copy of The Yellow Rain came from a library somewhere in the US where it’d been languishing on shelves, unable to shine its yellow beacon towards the right readers.

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        • Ste J

          12/08/2016 at 13:15

          The mainstream media seems to be getting poorer for wide ranging book recommendations, blogging is a lot more effective in that regard and it is thanks to people like yourself that I am still finding amazing new authors and stories to wallow in.

          Liked by 1 person

           
          • Claire 'Word by Word'

            12/08/2016 at 14:28

            That’s so true, I used to hang out to read the Saturday review in The Guardian and now I rarely bother with it, I find it so much narrower in its recommendations than what is out there and bloggers allow us to find both like-minded others and those reading stuff we have long dreamed of finding and finally can!

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            • Ste J

              13/08/2016 at 13:34

              The power of bloggers is still seemingly largely unexplored, the big publishers would do well to start giving us all free books to review, at least our reviews aren’t biased for the usual publishing house bias/reciprocal high scoring reviews between authors which means my trusted reviewers outside of the blog world are pretty narrow.

              Liked by 1 person

               

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