Ainielle 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.