Lucas, like a latter-day Montaigne or Yeats, sits in his tower, writing. There in the Catalan countryside he lives, alone with his dog and computer, recording his autobiographical story which forms the rest of the narrative of this highly original, beautifully written novel. His tale opens with a sudden shift to city life, as he relates the events which eventually led him to the tower. The thirty-three year old translator and editor of mixed Spanish and Welsh parentage, who has settled in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona, finds his easy-going life suddenly disturbed by a series of strange, apparently unrelated incidents. An unsigned postcard summoning him to a rendezvous in an art gallery leads to his meeting with a young woman, Nuria, to whom he has become passionately and emotionally attached, but as soon as he starts to enjoy this new relationship his life begins to fall apart. Kidnapped by members of a mysterious sect reliving the lives of thirteenth-century Cathar martyrs, he finally escapes back to the city. Like a modern version of the medieval wildman he undergoes a long period of suffering in the urban wilderness, before he is finally able to be healed and finally achieve a moment of epiphany.
The novel has some elements of the urban noir, but with its themes of exile, love and separation, with its people who may or may not be what they seem, this book is also profoundly rooted in older European myths and traditions, from the Bible to medieval romance and lyric poetry. The cast of characters is large and varied, from the seagull-feeding baron to the working class rabbit breeder, or the wild Roof People living their life of freedom high above the streets of the urban jungle. Each has a role to play in the life of Lucas and in that od Barcelona. This is a magical and memorable first novel by one of our most gifted contemporary poets.
'The best novel of the year.'
'At once an absurdist riddle, a romantic quest, and a love letter to our anti-hero’s chosen home, Gwyn’s witty and assured first novel is as much about the different ways you can tell a story as it is about the story itself.'
The New Yorker
'Clever, stylish and supremely entertaining ... this novel offers a feast of sophisticated pleasures and a taste of deeper passions too.'
'Full of good stuff ... short measured sentences and dreamlike dialogue. Gwyn’s Barcelona is one of uncertainty and magic, filled with darkly comic characters both prophetic and pathetic. Every encounter and detail of city life, precisely and unhurriedly recorded, seems significant.'
'Evokes the exhilarating unpredictability of urban life. Gwyn's plot is humming.'
'Gwyn's writing, immediate but with a runic quality, is engaging. Many readers who do not normally respond to the term ‘philosophical love story’ should enjoy this one.' Nicholas Clee