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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The History of Silence

Pedro Zarraluki

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To purchase The History of Silence

Title: The History of Silence
Author: Pedro Zarraluki
Genre: Novel
Written: 1994
Length: 186 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: The History of Silence - US
La historia del silencio - US
The History of Silence - UK
The History of Silence - Canada
La storia del silenzio - Italia
La historia del silencio - España
  • Spanish title: La historia del silencio
  • Translated by Nick Caistor and Lorenza García

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Our Assessment:

B : small but nicely done

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The History of Silence is, the narrator explains in the opening, in fact the story of: "how a book that should have been called The History of Silence never came to be written". The idea for that original project came to him and Irene, the woman he had been living with in Barcelona for the past five years, some two years earlier. Theirs is a busy household, with: "friends, ex-lovers, and friends of friends" constantly coming and going, and among this steady busy-ness, and at this stage in their relationship, a joint project looking into silence strikes them both as something to pursue:

I had the impression that Irene and I had started work on something absurd yet fundamental.
       They throw themselves into the project, though each proceeding in their own way. Indeed, they appear to be different characters, which plays a role in their approaches and also more general attitudes in life:
I sought refuge in solitude: she preferred to find inspiration among crowds.
       The constant buzz of activity from their friends, as well as the garrulous housekeeper, Rosario, that they somehow can afford, contrasts with their search for silence. They get dragged into the lives of some of their friends, too, including one whose husband is in a terrible accident. And eventually the narrator gets drawn into an affair with Irene's close friend, Silvia, who is otherwise in a loose relationship with the very open François.
       Where this leads to is no surprise. Even as:
we couldn't wait for life to return to normal. Our daily routine was beckoning us with its siren song. We wanted to pick up where we had left off. And then disaster struck.
       Since there had already been one disaster -- the injury of one of their acquaintances, with its awful consequences -- one can expect the worst. It's a different sort of disaster, but fairly predictable in its details and unfolding, as if they were fated to get to exctly that point.
       Irene and the narrator seem to have some difficulty in communication throughout. If not entirely secretive, they don't seem to share in everything. There's a silence vetween them, sometimes becoming awkward. There's passion to the narrator's misstep with Silvia, but he also seems to get involved with Irene's friend in anticipation of a reaction from Irene. Events lead not so much to a reassessment of where they and their relationship stands but rather the hitting of a reset button.
       Ultimately, The History of Silence is a novel of love and personal connection -- the silences and absences between lovers the negative space that Zarraluki uses to suggest what else might be there. It's an almost subdued novel, and it's certainly not loud, but in its calm, controlled narration -- even when the narrator gets desperate -- surprisingly resonant.
       In its quiet, and its focus on silence and absence over presence and action, The History of Silence feels a bit sparse, but it is a well-written and nicely conceived novel.

- M.A.Orthofer, 25 December 2014

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The History of Silence: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Spanish author Pedro Zarraluki was born in 1954.

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