2007 Premio Alfaguara winner: Luis Leante, Mira si yo te querré

December 30th, 2014 § 0 comments

Desde el barracón que hacía las veces de calabozo, el cabo Santiago San Román llevaba todo el día observando un movimiento anormal de tropas.  Cuatro metros de anchos por seis de largo, un colchón sobre un somier con cuatro patas, una mesa, una silla, una letrina muy sucia y un grifo.

Querida Montse:  pronto hará un año que no sé nada de ti.

Había tardado casi una hora en decidirse a escribir la primera frase y ahora le parecía afectada, poco natural.  El sonido de los aviones que tomaban tierra en el aeródromo de El Aaiún lo devolvió a la realidad.  Miró la cuartilla y ni siquiera reconoció su propia letra.  Desde la ventana del barracón no alcanzaba a ver más que la zona de seguridad de la pista y una parte del hangar.  Lo único que distinguía con claridad eran las cocheras y los Land-Rover entrando y saliendo sin parar, camiones cargados de lejías novatos y coches oficiales en un extraño ir y venir.  Por primera vez en siete días no le habían traído la comida, ni le habían abierto la puerta a media tarde para que pudiera estirar las piernas en uno de los extremos de la pista del aeródromo.  Llevaba una semana sin cruzar apenas palabra con nadie, comiendo un chusco duro y una sopa sosa, sin apartar la vista de la puerta ni de la ventana, esperando a que vinieran en cualquier momento para montarlo en una aeronave y sacarlo de África para siempre.  Le habían asegurado, en tono amenazador, que sería cuestión de un día o dos, y que luego tendría toda la vida para añorar se Sáhara. (pp. 23-24)

Tales involving lovers separated by time and space by all rights should be trite and clichéd affairs.  How many ways can a writer express “true love” without it becoming hackneyed and devoid of anything resembling originality?  Yet every now and then, there emerges a writer who manages to rework this age-old formula just enough to create something that is both familiar and yet differs in some key ways from the norm.

This is certainly the case in Luis Leante’s 2007 Premio Alfaguara-winning novel, Mira si yo te querré (See if I Will Love You).  It is a tale of two young lovers, one fated to become a Barcelona doctor, the other a soldier in Spain’s foreign legion during the last years of General Franco’s regime in the mid-1970s.  Yet Mira si yo te querré is more than just a love story.  It is as much a tale of Spain’s ill-fated retreat from its Western Sahara colony in 1975 and the invasion and annexation of this nascent country by Morocco.

The story shifts back and forth between the two lovers, Montse Cambra and Santiago San Román, from their initial relationship in the early 1970s (leading to Montse becoming pregnant) and Santiago’s embarking for the Western Sahara to Montse’s discovery, nearly three decades later, that Santiago did not die in the fighting there, as she had long presumed, but may have somehow survived and had stayed in the region after the Moroccan invasion.  Leante shifts back and forth in narrative time, building up Montse and Santiago’s original relationship in order to ratchet up the tension leading to her arrival in the occupied region.  Questions are raised about how each has or might have changed over the years, all over a backdrop whose own recent, tortured past serves as a counter to any possible tendency toward treacliness.

Leante does a very good job in establishing setting and narrative flow.  Things move smoothly from event to event, never feeling forced or underdeveloped.  The characterizations, however, are a bit more uneven, perhaps due to Santiago’s necessary lengthy absences from the “present” PoVs in order to further Montse’s character arc.  The concluding scenes, however, more than make up for this relative character underdevelopment, as they serve to reinforce not only what had been developed earlier between the two characters, but also to tie in the Western Sahara conflict with the characters’ lives.  The result is an entertaining love story that contains more depth than usual for lost lover narratives.

Tagged

Leave a Reply

What's this?

You are currently reading 2007 Premio Alfaguara winner: Luis Leante, Mira si yo te querré at Gogol's Overcoat.

meta