The first time I have come across a book written originally in Catalan, this is a classic that deserves to be much better known. Natalia is a young woman from Barcelona who enjoys her job at a bakery but gives it up to marry Quimet shortly before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The story is told entirely in Natalia’s voice, she is sensitive but also naive and almost completely without agency over what happens to her. Events engulf her, and whether they are mundane, comical or shocking, she describes everything in the same forensic detail, lending an incredible poignancy to the narrative.

During the 1930s Mercé Rodoreda was considered one of the most promising Catalan authors, but with the end of the Civil War in 1939, Catalan books were burned, Catalan newspapers were shut down and signs ordered “No ladres – habla el idioma del imperio español.” (“Don’t bark – speak the language of the Spanish Empire.”) Rodoreda was advised to flee to France and she did, thinking it would be for just a few months. In fact she only returned to Spain after the death of Franco. Meanwhile in 1962, now in exile in Geneva, she wrote The Time of the Doves, which has become a classic of the Catalan language.

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