Treasure of the Spanish Civil War and Other Tales


Translated from by

Published: March 3, 2020





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Book Description

Serge Pey’s stories take the form of vignettes from the lives of Spanish Civil War refugees and their children, who fled on foot from Catalonia to Southern France through the Pyrenees, only to be interned in French prison camps upon their arrival. The collection is made up by a series of surreal glimpses from the perspective of political refugees, many of them children. Through their eyes, we see the secret language of resistance: codes in clothes lines, hidden libraries of banned books, cherry trees named for assassinated comrades.

Pey ignites a brutal landscape with rare, rapt attention, the kind of engrossment that can deliver us to a new comprehension. Myth and superstition take hold in stories that range from a boy’s conspiratorial relationship with his grandmother and remembrances of outdoor movie watching to terrifying accounts of violence, confinement, and escape. In Treasure of the Spanish Civil War, immigrants reclaim their silenced histories, which read as disturbing precursors to the oppressive borders of today.

Pey’s haunting, inspired collection captures the lives of refugees fleeing the Spanish Civil War . . . Throughout this remarkable collection, Pey’s startling and memorable images have a poetic logic, building complexity and nuance into the characters’ cries for freedom. This masterful collection stands with the best fiction about war refugees.
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

A self-described ‘action-poet,’ Pey has now for some fifty years walked the high tightrope that links the written and the oral, the old shamanic and the new avant-garde traditions, live performances and printed books. In this gathering he shows himself a teller of tales of telluric power, inheritor of the likes of Jean Giono, Kateb Yacine or William Faulkner, as he recounts the intimately lived adventures of these children caught in the torment of war and repression . . . There is a truly scheherazadian power in Pey’s voice that makes each of these stories, be they tragic, pathetic, or even just every-day dramatic, a true delight to read. This is fast-talking writing at its best.
Pierre Joris

Out of so many wars, Serge Pey has chosen one that for him cuts to the heart. The war of his own people, the children of Spain who watched their families fight each other. His book has the flavor of a grenade, it bursts into a thousand pieces. It is humble and vibrant like the land of the South, tragically beautiful.
La Dépêche

Lyrical, oneiric, wrenching . . . [The collection's] beauty speaks to the collective, if precarious, survival of clandestine, resistant communities who, for all the violence they have suffered, refuse to be defined by it.
Carlos Varón González, Public Books

Translator Donald Nicholson-Smith read from Treasure of the Spanish Civil War and conversed with Caleb Crain about the book’s historical context at a June 2020 Zoom conversation hosted by Community Bookstore.


As part of the 2020 Sant Jordi NYC festival, Christopher Winks and Treasure of the Spanish Civil War translator Donald Nicholson-Smith spoke about translating Pey, the significance of his work, and Catalonia’s role in the Spanish Civil War. Start at roughly 5:43:40 to have a listen.