Marta Orriols

Marta Orriols (Sabadell, 1975) is an art historian by training. She has also studied scriptwriting at the Bande à Part film school, and creative writing at the Writing School of the Barcelona Athenaeum. She writes a regular blog, No puc dormir (I Can’t Sleep) and occasional articles for the digital press. Her first novel Anatomia de les distàncies curtes (Anatomy of Short Distances) was published by Periscopi in 2016.

People alone, forehead kisses

Jenn Díaz

The men and women in this collection of stories are true-to-life people and by this I mean it isn’t in the least difficult to enjoy being around some of them. They all have this thing of everyday life as well as the extraordinary moments of everyday life. And when I talk about extraordinary moments, I don’t mean moments full of beauty and happiness but something skimpier or more exceptional, something not very usual. Nevertheless, I’d say that this skimpiness and the most routine exceptionality don’t take any of us by surprise.

The short distances of which this book speaks are very clear: all the characters are seen as they face some problem, some conflict, some person. They are all seeking some kind of answer because life is more or less like this, and literature is too. Yet it’s not only this short distance, that of looking at the trembling from close up, because this short distance also speaks of the length of the stories, and no, they’re not very long. And I think if they were longer, they’d tell us what we don’t want to know because it’s unnecessary.

The stories are left broken, as if we could get a glimpse of the lives of these characters through a crack in the houses, and everything we can see through the crack is more than sufficient as well as being the only thing that counts. We could know more about all of them and, in more than one case, even feel curiosity, but it’s not necessary for here we have what is essential in life, the big questions we all wonder about, the big answers we don’t find, everything explained by way of an anecdote which may be simple but it hides a lot. This is the second short distance: that of the short, very short story which locks away in a small vessel the big questions that obsess us as people and probably as writers. […]

This said, I think that there are always two ways of understanding writing and reading. This book makes me think of the two sides of one coin. The characters—who are closer to being people than characters, for they are so close—act and resolve their small struggles in two ways because there are two ways of doing literature. The first seems easy but it isn’t. The author wants, on the basis of the most ordinary scenes, to create an extraordinary atmosphere. For example, wearing dirty, worn-out shoes would be a symbol of distinction in accordance with the logic and explanations that justify these dirty shoes. I think, for example, about the small virtues, so beautifully described by Natalia Ginzburg. The other way pertains to the majority of Marta Orriols’ characters, but not all of them: creating from the most extraordinary thing an everyday situation. The nineteen stories in this collection dance between these two ways of producing literature. [...]

Marta Orriols has managed to describe ordinary life with great literary skill. Very often everyday life is deemed unworthy of the attention of today’s writers who, so hooked on what’s happening right now, the—fleeting—times, the present, need fabulous, surprising stories in order to rise to the challenge. She has spoken, then, of everyday life, starting out from particular, genuine scenes and has done so with the normality that this kind of storytelling demands. Some people spend their whole lives trying to achieve lofty literature, although the most difficult thing is to present normality that doesn’t pass as normal. These stories look as if they were easy to write. They seem normal. And that, for people who love details, is where they succeed.

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