Carpenter's Pencil

Carpenter's Pencil

3.59 (2,185 ratings by Goodreads)
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It is the summer of 1936, the early months of the agonising civil war that engulfs Spain and shakes the rest of the world. In a prison in the pilgrim city of Santiago de Compostela, an artist sketches the famous porch of the cathedral, the Portico da Gloria. He uses a carpenter's pencil. But instead of reproducing the sculptured faces of the prophets and elders, he draws the faces of his fellow Republican prisoners.

Many years later in post-Franco Spain, a survivor of that period, Doctor Daniel da Barca, returns from exile to his native Galicia, and the threads of past memories begin to be woven together. This poetic and moving novel conveys the horror and savagery of the tragedy that divided Spain, and the experiences of the men and women who lived through it. Yet in the process, it also relates one of the most beautiful love stories imaginable.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 176 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 12mm | 127g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0
  • 0099448467
  • 9780099448464
  • 99,873

Review Text

He is an important storyteller because he is sensitive and he has an incredible ear, which, in his fiction, is allied to great ingenuity
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Review quote

I learnt more about the Spanish Civil War from The Carpenter's Pencil...than from any history book I've read -- Gunter Grass He is an important storyteller because he is sensitive and he has an incredible ear, which, in his fiction, is allied to great ingenuity -- John Berger A startling novel. I have rarely read a piece of writing so poetic * Daily Telegraph *
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About Manuel Rivas

Manuel Rivas was born in A Coruna in 1957. He writes in the Galician language of north-west Spain. He is well known in Spain for his journalism, as well as for his prize-winning short stories and novels, which include the internationally acclaimed The Carpenter's Pencil and Books Burn Badly. His most recent novel, All is Silence, will be published in English in 2013. His works have been translated into twenty languages.
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Rating details

2,185 ratings
3.59 out of 5 stars
5 21% (451)
4 36% (785)
3 29% (634)
2 11% (233)
1 4% (82)

Our customer reviews

Widely received as one of the great recent literary debuts, Manuel Rivas's The Carpenter's Pencil is a supremely well-written and exquisitely translated love story. Principally set in the summer of 1936, at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, Rivas tells the tale of Doctor Daniel de Barca. A Republican and a revolutionary, the doctor is in love with Marisa Mallo, and she is totally in love with him. But family prejudice and the bitter, wrenching effects of the civil war keep them apart. Herbal, our narrator, a Francoist bully and soldier, has killed a Republican painter. As a keepsake he holds on to the artist's pencil and, as if not willing to be separated from it, the ghost of the painter remains with Herbal, whispering in his ear throughout the story. Herbal, himself in love with Marisa, follows the Doctor from prison to prison and tells Maria de Visitacao, who listens to him in the bar where they both now work, what he saw, what the prisoners said, and how the love between Daniel and Marisa deepened and managed to stay alive in those awful days. Rivas' story is slight but the telling is magisterial, the depth utterly honest, his touch unerringly light, the resonances of his writing wide and the characterisation vivid: prose this poetic and this devoid of sentiment is as rare as it is breathtaking. War's abominable nature is the background to the work and its machinations move the Doctor away from Marisa, onto a train full of victims of TB and into a military hospital. Herbal is there all the way as guard, and witness, and occasionally as actor, intervening in ways he sometimes hardly understands himself. This is one of the first Galician novels to be translated into English and the book's sense of place adds wonderfully to the poignant work Rivas gets his relatively few words to achieve. The Carpenter's Pencil is a hugely moving, seductively readable, absolute more
by Mark Thwaite
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