With The House of Fire, Francesc Serés brings up to date one of the great themes in literature: a man alone with no obligations arrives, like a castaway, to an unknown place, a true “vale of tears,” isolated, indistinct, full of buried tensions.
He is a teacher, and he soon realizes that, while he is trying to teach newly arrived children to read and write, he too is in a kind of classroom, a true trial by fire where he will have to do everything to adapt. He will also have to learn to “read” the world he has just come to know, to treat with attention and respect the people and the landscapes they’ve inhabited since time immemorial, to decipher the signs that make possible the many lives of others and their infinite stories, to unveil the layers of reality that conceal truths that always leave their trace. Soon he learns that his function isn’t so much entering the privacy of the lives of others as living with them and through them, maybe to explain them, maybe to explain himself to them. As if this were a kind of moral duty, the narrator makes himself a spokesman and interpreter of their alienation, the presence of the dead and the absence of the living, the memory of the people and the land.
Proa Prize for the Novel
The House of Fire is the same Serés as always, but here he has gone further, confronting reality more deeply, a reality with more gestures, more features, more emotions, and of course with more mysteries, more shadows, more humanity, more green, and more moss.
If Serés is an “all-terrain” narrator, his is a literature of “contact,” of proximity, capable of giving a voice to those who did not have one up to now, to the disfavored, the forgotten of History with a capital H, those who have suffered personal or collective trauma.
This novel permits readers to share personal experiences in a kind of humanistic resocialization of the fabric of reality with an undeniably muscular ethic that distances itself from pure evasion and formal frivolity. A long, dense tale told in increasingly potent and humanized prose, with a seemingly effortless, natural and transparent style.
Jacqueline Chambon (France), Gran Via Edizioni (Italy), MacLehose (UK).