I have just finished reading this english translation of the novel La Colmena by Camilo Jose Cela.
This is the first time I have read the book of Cela, the Spanish writer who got Nobel prize.
I started it about six months back and completed only now, although it is only about 250 pages.
The author took about five years to write it ! The story lends itself to leisurely reading. It centres around a cafe, where the characters come in midafternoon or early evening,sit around, meet others and reflect on their lives over cafe at Dona Rosa's Cafe Delicia.
The story has no big drama, suspence or memorable characters. It is like documentation of every day life of 160 ordinary characters such as an unemplyed youth, policeman, security guard, old men with young tastes and old ladies with older attitude in the city of Madrid. Cela himslef had written in his preface to the first edition "it is nothing other than a pale reflection, a humble shadow of everyday, harsh, profund and painful reality". In the aftermath of the second world war and in the middle of Franco's dictatorship, the Spaniards seem to have simply drifted along, without serious aspirations or motivations.
It is about lower middle class people and their struggle to survive. While the boys and men invent ways and means to acquire and keep up with lovers, the girls who are not luckey enough, take to the streets. The casual and easy approach of these characters to sex, partnership and fun reminded me of similiarities in Latin America.
The books of Cela were banned during Franco's dictatorship and this book was first published in Buenos Aires in 1951. Even there it had to go thorugh the censorship of Peronist dictatorship.