Salt Water


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Book Description

Dripping with a panache that can turn in a comic instant to the most conciliatory humility, Josep Pla’s foray into the land and sea most familiar to him will plunge readers headfirst into its mysterious (and often tasty!) depths. Here are adventures and shipwrecks, raspy storytellers and the fishy meals that sustain them. After describing the process of beating an octopus with branches to soften up its flesh, Pla writes, “These are dishes that must be seen as a last resort.” Ever the authority on flavor and the brisk etiquette of sailing, eating, scheming, and smuggling, Pla is our stalwart captain through each windy, sun-soaked tale. A lifetime of reporting on current events gave Pla the necessary skills to describe the world in all its gritty, funny, invigorating detail.

Pla’s stories are generally unadorned and precise in their renderings of both the people and the places of the far northeast of Spain, lives full of hardship and labor—but also their insistence on freedom. A fine introduction to a writer little known outside his native land and who memorably captures its atmosphere.
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

Josep Pla’s dazzling collection of Hemingwayesque nonfiction essays—started during the stay-at-home orders of the “Spanish” flu outbreak of 1918—makes a striking appearance in the current moment. Its portraits and vignettes are full of the love for the close company of other people and their intrigues, from which we are as much removed now as he was then. It is as crisp in its intimacy with the stalwart souls of maritime Catalonia in the early twentieth century as a mistral wind coming down a mountain is—a wind which stops you for a few days, even a week, maybe a lifetime, to remind you of the core pleasure of gathering with other bodies in a warm room.
Edgar Garcia

Salt Water benefits from Pla’s prolific career collecting pithy observations from sources, which helped the author generate idiosyncratic characters and iconoclastic literary insights . . . His unique prose, suffused with love, exists in a space between stoic observation and daydream.
Colton Alstatt, Zyzzyva

He travels with smugglers, narrates the stories of storms and shipwrecks that he hears on boats and in cafés and listens to fishermen, bar-tenders, sailors, layabouts, cooks, crooks and eccentrics. You could call most of them eccentric, author included . . . The translation reads immaculately . . . With pride, Josep Pla talks in Salt Water of his fierce coast in his and its battered language. He both observes and shares the dreams, traditions, food and culture of its people.
Michael Eaude, Catalonia Today

A seafood stew of the finest variety, [Salt Water] is a travel guide in the form of literature that also has that hard, gritty authenticity of seafaring experience… You could almost wipe the sand from the roads [Pla] travelled off the pages of the book.
Cliff Sargent, Better than Food

Salt Water is a pescatarian’s dream, replete with hearty, fishy repasts, generally washed down with bottomless carafes of local wine… With its quiet undercurrents of irony and fatalism, Josep Pla’s way of “giving time a slower rhythm” will add savor to a summer day, whether you find yourself on a porch, in a hammock, or snug in a bunk on a humble, but honest boat.
Nicie Panetta, Frugal Chariot


Josep Pla was a great noticer of things and places; his gaze was alert and dry; he wrote in a style which registered both the smallest detail and the large picture.
Colm Tóibín

Pla’s book of “narrations” shows us why this Catalan writer is considered the “finest . . . of his generation.” Each narrative piece is like a still-life, focusing on the tangible and memorable things of this world. Pla invites us to share his perspective on the complexity and sensuality of our surroundings.
Book Riot

Pla has often been compared with the great Joseph Roth – they were both astute witnesses of their respective worlds . . . Outstanding.
Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times

Pla details the foibles, frailties, and eccentricities of his characters in vibrant, earthy prose tempered by a biting sense of humor . . . His abundant literary gifts allowed him to record in his narratives what he saw, heard, touched, tasted, and smelled with startling clarity and sharpness.
Kristine Morris, Foreword Reviews