Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Sad, Inescapable Reality: Mercè Rodoreda’s “War, So Much War”

Catalan novelist Mercè Rodoreda’s profoundly disturbing novel, War, So Much War, presents a world where war has become commonplace, the inescapable reality of everything around us. Though there are specifics that situate her story in an environment not so far from Barcelona, as you turn the pages, you have no doubt that the setting is everywhere, the world we have come to live in post-9/11, including our own country sometime in the future. That situation does not make the story as depressing as it sounds but simply a growing reality like climate change or economic collapse. Hard to expect anything else when we’ve mucked everything up as much as we have and huge numbers of people are deniers of any change at all.

Fifteen-year-old Adrià Guinart runs away from home because of tensions with his mother and begins a period of wandering, mostly in the country. In one of the first warsomuchwarincidents after his flight, he saves the life of a man who tried to hang himself, only to be met by the man’s frustrating question: “Why, why did you unhang me?” Thereafter, Adrià will not be so quick to get involved with other people. War had already broken out before he fled home but a conflict so amorphous that it is never quite clear who is fighting whom. Briefly, deserters recruit Adrià to flight but he escapes almost immediately and, thus, we never see him fighting. Moreover, there are no accounts of battle but, more importantly, evidence of the war everywhere he goes, as if he is completely surrounded by it.

It is the aftermath of brutal conflict that Rodoreda records so convincingly, a world destroyed by such conflict, though Adrià always appears to be just on the edge of it. He observes dead soldiers floating in rivers, men who have lost their limbs, militiamen in the distance, bombed buildings and entire villages destroyed, piles of bodies in some of the abandoned villages he passes through, occasional aircraft overhead, deranged survivors, and—too often—the unbearable stench of death. On the one occasion when he actually speaks to several tradesmen who have survived and asks them why people are fighting, this is what he hears: “The bricklayer said it was to beat back the enemy, but then the carpenter pointed out that, to our enemies, we are the enemy. The electrician said: Even if we win this war it’ll be as though we’ve lost it, the way war is set up, everyone loses. The hearth builder joined us and said that we could cry all we wanted and there would still be nothing to plow, we were all cannon fodder, nothing but cannon fodder.”

Mostly, the people Adrià encounters during his wanderings are good, decent people, often helping him. They give him food, a place to stay, provide him with work—two of them want to adopt him (in one case because they have lost their own sons to the war). Other people tell him the stories of their own lives. No one abuses him, exploits him, or tries to take advantage of him, implying that the war all round them has made them conscious of how precious life can be. But Adrià rarely stays any place for very long. As he tells one woman, “I was meant to roam the world.” Thus, life goes on. Although he treks through many barren areas where people no longer live, in other areas he encounters farmers planting their seeds and tilling their fields. In one village he observes a wedding.

The narration is complicated, with strange encounters and characters reappearing in later scenes. One older man whom Adrià stays with for a time leaves all of his possessions to the younger man after he dies, including all of his papers, which he asks Adrià to destroy. When Adrià reads what the man has written, he realizes that he is reading an account of his own life. On the final page, he reads a sentence written by the older man which asks, “Under what conditions can we become another?” There is an equally probing observation by another man who observes that if you lose your shadow, you have died.

Mercè Rodoreda’s War, So Much War is a gripping story, passing as the account of the wanderings of a highly sensitive young man. As he tells us toward the end of the story, “I enjoyed nothing more than wandering through the world lost. Doing as I pleased no matter how things turned out, with no one giving me any advice. Seeing the sky, the forests, experiencing fear, contemplating the night and having it for a roof.” Under the surface story, Rodoreda is not afraid to probe man’s humanity in the face of ubiquitous warfare that ought to destroy mankind or—at the least—send it back to the Dark Ages. That is not what Adrià encounters with others but, rather, the will to survive. In the skillful translation by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent, it is easy to understand why Mercé Rodoreda has been called “the most important Catalan writer of the twentieth century.”

Mercè Rodoreda: War, So Much War

Trans. by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent

Open Letter, 185 pp., $13.95

More articles by:

Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University, in Washington, D.C. Email = clarson@american.edu. Twitter @LarsonChuck.

October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail