Private Life

Private Life - Josep Maria De Sagarra, Mary Ann Newman

For some time I've wondered if I'd ever find the fitting counterpart to the great Russian novel. For an equally long time, that seemed like an impossible thing to do. Yet after finishing "Private Life", I think Sagarra managed to write a brilliant novel that can be justly called the distant, younger cousin of the Russian greats. It is much more sexually charged and explicit, and the names are just as complex to keep track of - the narrator particularly enjoys pointing out a character who appeared at a specific event, after which he quickly proceeds to give the character's whole backstory and inserts them into modern Barcelona - and the society is just as complex, divided, and at times discussing as it was in imperial Russia. It also took some time to get into the book before it became easier to appreciate and understand it, and I agree with my prof who said that the fact that Sagarra wrote this novel in two months really shows with the at-times messy writing.

But the book is worth reading, and it is phenomenal, dirty, and moving. There are lines scattered here and there that make one stop and contemplate, while the soap-opera events make for a captivating read. It's not a particularly easy novel to read, especially if one doesn't have much prior knowledge about Catalan culture or the geography of Barcelona. Yet after finishing this book I want to know more about both of those aspects. I want to revisit this one in a few years and see how my perception will change. It's a rich book that's impossible to fully appreciate after only one read, yet that is exactly what points to Sagarra's stubborn brilliance.