The Last Days of Terranova


Translated from by

Published: November 15, 2022



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Book Description

The Last Days of Terranova tells of Vicenzo Fontana, the elderly owner of the long-standing Terranova Bookstore, on the day it’s set to close due to the greed of real-estate speculators. On this final day, Vicenzo spends the night in his beloved store, filled with more than seventy years of fugitive histories. Jumping from the present to various points in the past, the novel ferries us back to Vicenzo’s childhood, when his father opened the store in 1935, to the years that the store was run by his Uncle Eliseo, and to the lead-up to the democratic transition, which Vicenzo spent as far away from the bookstore as possible in Madrid. Like the bookstore itself, The Last Days of Terranova is a space crammed with stories, histories, and literary references, and as many nooks, crannies, and complexities, brought to life in Rivas’s vital prose.

Rivas' sentences are aflame with philosophy and well-wrought beauty; beauty that, at times, supersedes the narrative itself. Rogers' translation from the original Galician is lucid and musical. . . As beautifully incongruous as a human mind.
Kirkus Reviews

Rivas offers a tender requiem for a venerable Spanish bookstore . . . Literary and political history regularly intertwine: as dictatorships and revolutions come and go, the store is raided by secret police amid discussions of Andre Breton and walk-ons by the likes of Jorge Luis Borges. Terranova comes to encapsulate histories both personal and national, a vantage point to glimpse the melancholy and ecstasy of the characters and their culture . . . This hits the spot, both as a love letter to and postmortem of the world of ideas.
Publishers Weekly

To Vicenzo, the closing of the family bookstore is like a killing, of himself, of his family, of the precious books within, and of the memories intertwined with all of them . . . What distinguishes Rivas’s approach isn’t that it reroutes the generic storyline much but that it festoons it with winsome, slithery sentences and references born from Rivas’s own literary wanderings. It’s here that the novel focuses its most genuine invention. The movement always on Eliseo’s mind is surrealism . . . and Rivas has a feel for its grammar, the nonsequiturs that ring with poetic profundity. The novel seeks to give life to the readers’ experiences, to reconcile all the things we’ve been, to breathe life into an old story with memory’s iron lung.
James Butler-Gruett, On the Seawall

The store’s name is a play on Newfoundland, and Terranova becomes just that — newfound land — for those visiting it or hiding in its attic. The bookstore doesn’t deserve to close, but even if it does, its soul will live on to inspire future generations in their struggles.
Darrell Delamaide, The Washington Independent Review of Books


Rivas is an important storyteller because he is sensitive and he has an incredible ear, which, in his fiction, is allied to great ingenuity.
John Berger

Beautiful . . . It resonates with memory, love and palpable grief . . . Rivas is special – funny, benign, opinionated. He tells wonderful stories because he learned early in life how to listen, and he listened to the soft, wise voices around him.
—Eileen Battersby, Irish Times Books of the Year (on The Low Voices)

Rivas's delicate, restrained magical realism, limpidly translated, deploys Galician folklore to lend a mythic resonance to Spain's painful passage from rural life to urban modernity. The result is a poignant, lyrical meditation on the disenchantments of history.
Publishers Weekly on In the Wilderness

A startling novel. I have rarely read a piece of writing so poetic.
The Daily Telegraph, on The Carpenter's Pencil

Rivas leaves it up to readers to fill in the full emotional scope of the novel through the lens of Fontana’s nostalgia. The process of doing so reminds us that though we bear witness to many characters’ stories, the narrative mosaic that Rivas has crafted belongs to one person alone. It’s a poignant achievement that Fontana’s story feels connected to our own after our time with him is finished.
John Kazanjian, Rain Taxi

Manuel Rivas reads like no-one else on the planet . . . one of those novels to lavish on friends . . . Manuel Rivas’s sweeping novel, translated into English for the first time, is an undoubted classic.
Scotsman, on Books Burn Badly

Manuel Rivas has written a beautiful novel, filled with tenderness and humanity.
Arturo Perez-Reverte on The Carpenter’s Pencil

Rivas is a master… His pages bloom like flowers, swerving in unpredictable arcs toward a light-source that is constantly moving.
Bookforum on The Carpenter’s Pencil

The Carpenter's Pencil is a strange and haunting novel, seamlessly translated (by Jonathan Dunne), a sincere and beautiful portrait of a brutal, ugly period of Spanish history.
Stephanie Merrit, The Guardian

Terranova is a family bookstore in A Coruña, Galicia, in the far northwest corner of Spain, but not just any bookstore. It's a subversive literati clubhouse for defeated republican warriors after the fascist takeover of Spain in 1939, and it continues to buy contraband books and other media from the Americas through Argentina until the dictator's death in 1975. This wonderful novel is more than a time capsule of the region and its people's determination to survive fascism and tell the tale, it's the fascinating and complicated story of different generations of a family knit together and also divided by the tensions of living free-minded in a repressive society. I went down many rabbit holes while reading this, particularly in regards to Argentinian music of the 1970s. Manuel Rivas is a giant of Galician letters, and I feel so lucky to have Jacob Rogers' beautiful translation. Highly recommended!
Jennifer Ray, Powell's Bookstore