Manuel Rivas, born in La Coruña, Galicia in 1957, is one of the most important contemporary writers in Spain. After graduating in Media Studies at the University of Complutense in Madrid, he worked as a professional journalist. Rivas is also one of the founders of Greenpeace Spain. Among other awards, his novel Todo es silencio was shortlisted for the prestigious Premio internacional de novela Rómulo Gallegos 2011, the script for the film of the same name was nominated for the Goya Award. For three of his Galician novels, he received the Premio de la Crítica Narrativa. His work, which is originally published in Galician, has been translated into over 25 languages.
Manuel Rivas is without doubt one of the most important contemporary Spanish authors. From novels and short stories, children’s books, poetry and plays to essays, he covers every genre, varying his stylistic methods between the colloquial language of the man on the street in his home of Galicia and a lyrical tone. Rivas’ literature can be defined as transfrontier, transgressive of genres, an avant-garde of active melancholy. A 'vagabond' literature of 'walkscape', inspired by the Charles Chaplin's adventures in The Tramp, where the casual and the causal collide. For Rivas, literature gives voice to the memory of the wounds suffered by the body, land, and language.
In El último día de Terranova ("The Last Day of Terranova") Manuel Rivas tells the story of a small bookstore, which over the decades has become an institution in the Galician coastal city. But now, in 2014, in the age of real estate speculation, the homeowner does not want to renew the lease for "Terranova". And the bookseller, Vicenzo Fontana, has no choice but to put up the For Sale sign.
In his youth he would never have dreamed of taking over his parents’ and uncle’s business. He didn’t get along very well with his father, whose affinity for his books alienated the boy, a polio sufferer since childhood. For a long time he resisted the path laid down for him, and went to Madrid as a punk and lyricist of a rock band. There he met the mysterious Garúa, an Argentinean woman, with whom he fell in love and returned to his home city, without ever really getting together with her. Gradually, we find out that it was in the bookstore that she found shelter from political persecution, before returning to Argentina in 1979 to fight against the dictatorship. But it is not only for her that Terranova has been a place of refuge and a hive of resistance. And it is from the books that Vicenzo Fontana learns everything that matters and which his family always knew: how they deceive, how they can help, how they teach us to love, how they give us solace and salvation.
In his wonderfully precise, poetic language Manuel Rivas describes a world in which it is the human being and humanity that count, and in which the protagonists are strong and vulnerable at the same time. Their fight against barbarism and in defence of culture is Rivas’s great gift to the reader in El último día de Terranova. Great literature.
A beautiful and poetic novel about feelings, the true meaning of literature, and art from the earliest times.
A hymn to the liberating power of words, and a tribute to the world of books and bookshops.
A boca da terra (“The Jaws of the Earth”) is poetry about renegade nature. Here, nature talks, murmurs, shouts and blasphemes with irony within the echo of the church bells. It also hides in the ruins and spies, standing watch over the footsteps of those who pass by. It remembers and dreams: unruly-coloured horses run through the fields; the distant horizon anxiously awaits a storm of butterflies. This renegade nature envelops human and non-human people, even machines: the Ohio scales that weigh objects and emotions, the resentment of the tractors on the abandoned farms… And it envelops the language, words that, like moths around a lamp, fight against extinction and reveal one mystery only to create another, like bodies concealed within souls.
(© by Ed. Xerais, Galicia)
Manuel Rivas weds, in happy union, popular rhymes, haiku and flashes of surrealism. A collection of lays or laments, full of emotional intensity, conclude a vibrant book that without a doubt is here to stay.
Fugas, La voz de Galicia
An excellent book, very moving.
Manuel Rivas’ new novel Las voces bajas (“The Low Voices”) tells the moving story of his childhood, a story of several generations, with his elder and admired sister María as the thread that holds it all together. In a very visual way, Rivas leads the reader through his first fears, to his seamstress grandmother, to the first time his father saw an airplane, to the lives of emigrants and of those who could never emigrate… and closes with his greatest fear: María’s death.
Las voces bajas is a novel about life, it is life itself telling stories, it is the memory of the quiet voices of the people I got to know.
Rivas reveals himself as an authentic storyteller, transforming reality into imagination without ever betraying it.
Rivas’ deepest, most confidential and intimate book to date.
Heraldo de Aragón
Rivas’ novel Todo es silencio (“All is Silence”) is again set on Spain's Atlantic coast and tells the riveting story of a group of friends growing up in the omnipresent shadow of the hateful yet fascinating Mariscal, head of a ring of contraband smugglers. Looking for shipwrecks at a time when drug trafficking almost controls society, they suddenly find themselves tempted by the promises of easy money. A novel that tells how crime encircles and corrupts – not always successfully - what we call the human condition.
Rivas' language makes all his characters unique.
Los libros arden mal ("Books Burn Badly") refers to an event that took place shortly after Franco took power: the book-burning in the port of Coruña. In this choral piece, Rivas gives voice to normal people like the well-read lawyer Ricardo Samos, who lends the Franco regime an intellectual foundation, or his wife Chelo, a secret resistance activist. With this colourful tapestry of stories, Rivas creates a detailed panorama of twentieth-century Spain from which we only reluctantly turn away.
Words are not just words. They are the body of language and literature; the flesh, the blood, the bones – the life itself. This principle is fundamental in the books of Manuel Rivas. And thanks to him, the latest novel from this Galician author arouses much more than the reader’s interest and admiration; it also stirs their emotion, curiosity, enchantment and pleasure.
An exceptional book by an exceptional writer.
With calm passion, with poetic vehemence. That is how Manuel Rivas expresses himself in his most ambitious novel, both in form and content.
Begoña Piña, QUE LEER
El lápiz del carpintero (“The Carpenter’s Pencil”) is set during the Spanish Civil War. It tells the moving love story between Marisa, daughter of a rightwing family, and the Republican doctor Daniel, who has been imprisoned in Santiago de Compostela jail. When Daniel manages to escape and spend a few hours with his wife during a train journey, an adventure as incredible as it is beautiful begins.
I have learned more about the Spanish Civil War by reading The Carpenter’s Pencil by Manuel Rivas than through all the history books.
Günter Grass, Nobel Prize of Literature 1999
El lápiz del carpintero brings together the taste of popular legends from around the world.
A beautiful novel, full of humanity and tenderness.
The press on ¿Qué me quieres, amor?:
An imaginative prose rife with discoveries. A sensitive and precious novel.
A gifted writer with great sensitivity and imagination. Manuel Rivas perceives the blend of cruelty and tenderness behind human gestures.
El último día de Terranova, Madrid: Alfaguara 2015, 275 p.
(Original title in Galician: O último día de Terranova, , Ediciones Xerais de Galicia)
Syria: Ninawa • UK: Harvill Secker 2016, pb 2017
Film directed by José Luis Cuerda 2012
France: Gallimard 2014 • Syria: Ninawa • UK: Harvill Secker 2013
Los libros arden mal, Madrid: Alfaguara 2006, 616 p.
(Original title in Galician: Os libros arden mal, Ediciones Xerais de Galicia)
Brazil: Tinta Negra • France: Gallimard 2008, pb 2010 • Germany: Ludwig • Italy: Feltrinelli 2009 • Netherlands: Ambo/Anthos 2009 • Romania: Curtea Veche • Spain: Edicions 62 2006 (Catalan) • Syria: Ninawa • Turkey: Dogan • UK: Harvill Secker 2010
En salvaje compañía, Madrid: Alfaguara 2004, 208 p.
(Original title in Galician: En salvaxe compaña, Ediciones Xerais de Galicia)
France: Métailié 1997 • Germany: Suhrkamp 1998 • Netherlands: Ambo/Anthos 2002 • UK: Harvill Press 2003 • US: The Overlook Press 2006
El lápiz del carpintero, Madrid: Alfaguara 2002, 201 p.
(Original title in Galician: O lapis do carpinteiro, Ediciones Xerais de Galicia)
Film directed by Antón Reixa 2002
Bosnia & Herzegovina: BTC Sahinpasic • Brazil: Objetiva 2002 • Bulgaria: The Small Press • Croatia: A.G.M. 2001 • Finland: Tammi 2001 • France: Gallimard 2001, Folio 2002 • Germany: Suhrkamp 2002 • Greece: Enalios 2000 • Israel: Keter 2005 • Italy: Feltrinelli 2000 • Korea: Dulnyouk 2012 • Lithuania: Kitos • Netherlands: Ambo/Anthos 1999 • Norway: Cappelen 2003 • Poland: Muza 2002 • Portugal: Dom Quixote 2000 • Qatar: Bloomsbury Qatar • Romania: Curtea Veche 2011 • Russia: Inostranka 2004 • Serbia: Laguna • Slovenia: Cankarjeva Zalozba 2006 • Spain: Proa 1999 (Catalan) • Sweden: Gavrilo 2014 •Turkey: Dogan Kitap 2001 • UK: Harvill Secker 2001, Vintage 2003 • US: Overlook 2001
Lo más extraño, Madrid: Alfaguara 2011, 536 p.
¿Qué me quieres, amor?, Madrid: Punto de Lectura 2006; Alfaguara 2009, 192 p.
(Original title in Galician: Que me queres, amor?, Editorial Galaxia)
National Prize for Narrative 1996
Brazil: Tinta Negra 2011 • China: Shanghai99 2015 • France: Gallimard • Germany: Reclam 2012 • Macedonia: Makedonika Litera 2017 • Portugal: Dom Quixote 1998 • Russia: Inostranka • Spain: Proa 1997 (Catalan) • UK: Harvill Secker 2003 • US: The Overlook Press 2008
Mujer en el baño, Madrid: Alfaguara 2003, 312 p.
(Original title in Galician: Muller no Baño, Ediciones Xerais de Galicia)
Las llamadas perdidas, Madrid: Alfaguara 2002, 240 p.
(Original title in Galician: As chamadas perdidas, Ediciones Xerais de Galicia)
Portugal: Dom Quixote 2002
La mano del emigrante, Madrid: Alfaguara 2001, 160 p.
(Original title in Galician: A man dos paíños, Ediciones Xerais de Galicia)
El secreto de la tierra, Madrid: Alfaguara 1999, 400 p.
Portugal: Dom Quixote 2003
Ella, maldita alma, Madrid: Alfaguara 1999, 168 p.
(Original title in Galician: Ela, maldita alma, Editorial Galaxia)
Czech Republic: Nakladatelstvi Pavel Mervart • Portugal: Dom Quixote 2000 • Spain: Proa 2000 (Catalan)
La lengua de las mariposas, Madrid: Alfaguara 1996, 56 p.
(Original title in Galician: A lingua das bolboretas, Editorial Galaxia)
Included in the volume of stories "¿Qué me quieres, amor?”
Film directed by José Luis Cuerda 1999
Breton: An Alarc’h 2009 • France: Gallimard 2003, Folio 2004 • Germany: Suhrkamp 2002, Hueber 2006, Reclam 2012 • Italy: Feltrinelli 2005 • Japan: Kodakawa 2001 • Portugal: Ambar • Russia: Inostranka • Slovenia: Cankarjeva 2006 • Tetum/Portuguese (bilingual): Aldine 2009 • Turkey: Dogan Kitap 2003 • UK: Harvill Secker 2000
Un millón de vacas y Los comedores de patatas, Spain: Editora del Norte 1993, 117 p.
(Original title in Galician: Un millón de vacas, Os comedores de patacas, Ediciones Xerais de Galicia)
A cuerpo abierto, Madrid: Alfaguara 2008, 344 p.
(Original title in Galician: A corpo aberto, Ediciones Xerais de Galicia)
El periodismo es un cuento, Madrid: Alfaguara 1997, 352 p.
A boca da terra, Vigo: Ed. Xerais 2015, 104 p.
(Original edition in Galician)
La desaparición de la nieve, Madrid: Alfaguara 2009, 280 p.
(Original title in Galician: A desaparición da neve (quadrilingual), Alfaguara)
France: N&B 2011 • UK: Shearsman Books
El pueblo de la noche, Madrid: Alfaguara 1997, 176 p.
(Original title in Galician: O pobo da noite, Ediciones Xerais de Galicia)
El héroe, Madrid: Alfaguara 2006, 152 p.
(Original title in Galician: O heroe, Ediciones Xerais de Galicia)
For young readers:
Cuentos de un invierno, Madrid: Alfaguara (Santillana) 2005, 2009, 125 p.
(Contes de Nadal)
Galicia: Ed. Xerais 2015
Bala Perdida, Madrid: Alfaguara 1996, 120 p.
(Original title in Galician: Bala perdida, Ediciones Obradoiro)
Italy: Feltrinelli 2001