Jacobé & Fineta by Joaquim Ruyra, translated by Alan Yates

It was a real surprise to find Jacobé & Fineta by Joaquim Ruyra, translated by Alan Yates in my book post. My enormous thanks to Fum D’Estampa Press for sending me a copy. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Fum D’Estampa Press on 23rd April 2022 Jacobé & Fineta is available for purchase here.

Jacobé & Fineta

Hauntingly beautiful, stark and deceptively complex, Joaquim Ruyra’s short stories have long been celebrated as some of the most important and iconic pieces of literature in the 20th century Catalan canon.

Of these short stories, Jacobé and Fineta stand out as masterpieces of their genre in terms of their powerful descriptions of the towns and countryside of the Mediterranean coastline and the subjects they cover.

Accompanied by Ruyra expert and critic Julià Guillamon’s introduction, Alan Yates’ sublime translation in this limited edition brings them to a new audience.

My Review of Jacobé & Fineta

Two short stories in translation.

This slim volume is an intense and fascinating read. In fact, there’s a literary cadence that makes the writing more like listening to harmonious music than reading.

In Jacobé and Fineta the writing is intense, poetic and sumptuous, conveying meaning through subtle implications as much as through obvious exposition. I’m not sure I gathered every nuance of meaning, but I found the writing mesmerising. In Jacobé, for example, the story can be taken at face value as the tragic tale of a person suffering a physical and mental breakdown. Equally, however, there’s a sense of allegory, a religious exploration of the way the sins of the fathers are visited on offspring so that the story is multi layered and perplexing even as it is beautifully written and engaging.

Fineta echoes Jacobé’s unworldliness so that reading this pair of stories makes the reader feel as if they have glimpsed a kind of time slip. It’s as if Jacobé and Fineta are a type of literary string theory with unbroken connections affecting characters long after events have taken place and linking them firmly with the past. The stories are thought-provoking as a result.

Joaquim Ruyra’s prose is translated exquisitely by Alan Yates. Images of nature, especially the sea, are beautifully depicted so that the rhythms of the writing appear to emulate the tides themselves. In contrast to nature, the people in these two stories feel discordant and unable to maintain their place in the natural scheme of life whilst simultaneously appearing as if they are completely part of the universe. This makes reading Jacobé and Fineta feel somehow otherworldly.

It’s quite hard to define my response to the two stories in Jacobé and Fineta. The prose is quite beautiful and completely mesmerising.  I think I’d have to say I am in awe of them even if I’m unsure I have grasped their nuances fully. I really recommend that you read them for yourself.

About Joaquim Ruyra

Joaquim Ruyra i Oms was a Catalan short-story writer, poet and translator, considered a key figure in modern Catalan literature and one of the great narrators of the 20th century. Besides his literary work, he was also aware of linguistics and participated in the First International Congress of Catalan Language.

About Alan Yates

Alan Yates, born in Northampton in 1944, studied Modern Languages at the University of Cambridge. From 1968 he taught in the Department of Hispanic Studies at the University of Sheffield where he was promoted in 1990 to a personal Chair in Catalan Studies. Early retirement in 1999 enabled him to cultivate his enthusiasm for literary translation (exclusively Catalan-English), for which he has been awarded various distinctions.

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