Mirall trencat [Broken Mirror] by Mercè Rodoreda

(Nou diccionari 62 de la literatura catalana)

This novel, although very different from the La plaça del Diamant (titled The Time of the Doves in the English translation), joins the latter in being among the most important of Rodoreda's works. Divided into three parts and with a very interesting prologue, this is a book of great complexity in its host of characters and the period it covers, a work that requires an extremely skilful narrator to detail the story of three generations of the Valldaura-Farriols family, inhabitants of a splendid mansion in the Barcelona neighbourhood of Sant Gervasi.

The story, which has elements of melodrama and the romantic novel, is sustained by a highly attractive female character, Teresa Goday de Valldaura, who moves up the social scale thanks to her two marriages. Also outstanding, in its heightened presence and penetration, is the childhood triangle, both terrible and poetic, in which a little girl Maria stands out as a sort of symbol of the times. The murder of one of the trio, Jaume, with all it brings (the suicide of the little girl and probably that of the father), becomes the tragic nucleus of the story and the onset of decline. The war ends up dealing out the deathblow to this family, as intimated by the destruction of the mansion by fire (another symbol of the war).

In her novel, Rodoreda acutely portrays the way of life of the high bourgeoisie of Barcelona at a time of particular splendour, offering an image that is both refined and penetrating. Yet she also incorporates people of the lower orders – the servants – with notable success in the case of the cook, Armanda. Even though the storyline is powerful in itself, Rodoreda essentially gives her attention to the inner world of her characters, telling the story from within, from the emotions and, above all, from their sadness. She thereby reveals her three core themes: the failure of love, through different amorous triangles; the destructive passing of time; and the obliteration of a world.

Then again, Rodoreda introduces fantastic elements as well (the ghost of the dead Maria), weaving in mystery which, in the end, is poetic. In Mirall trencat, apart from laying bare the complexity of the human being and of the world, she creates a myth of great power and beauty: that of the Catalan Barcelona destroyed by the Civil War.

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