The author says that he decided to set the action of Los vencejos in Madrid because “it is not just any city. It is a political scene of the first order in Spain” and because “I had the ambition, as well as telling a story of private characters, to draw a social picture of the period”
Summary and review
Toni, the protagonist of Los vencejos, does not seem to be going through his best moment. A philosophy teacher at a secondary school, serene and lucid, he has decided to set a date for his death. He has decided to commit suicide and, to do so, he has given himself a deadline of one year. No more, no less. With this initial approach, can one expect a macabre reading? Nothing could be further from the truth. The work is neither dark nor depressing, not at all. The protagonist, despite his denial of life, lacks neither humour nor irony. The reader will be able to echo this throughout the narrative because the protagonist has decided to write a kind of diary that he knows no one will ever read. This allows him to give free rein to his thoughts, which at times can be extremely sarcastic.
Swifts fly restlessly, they are free and industrious and have a long migration. They spend most of their lives in the air. Perhaps this is why Toni, the protagonist of the novel, loves them. “Just what I would have wished for: not to touch the ground, not to brush against anyone. The swifts, then, do not play a merely decorative role; they have a symbolic level in the novel.
Fernando Aramburu succeeds in Los vencejos in outlining extremely complex, intensely dramatic characters, with their doubts, their experiences and their profound reflections on life. Page by page, the characters open up to the reader, who becomes privy to their absolute intimacy. But beware of first impressions of the protagonist, for this is a novel full of light and shadow. Both the protagonist and the rest of the characters in the novel have their nuances, their quirks, their history. This is a novel with very complex characters that can end up surprising the reader with their originality. A superb lesson in life.
Los vencejos is a novel that deals with current issues
The novel also deals with themes such as politics, terrorism, sex, and the fear of loneliness and death, which make up a large part of the novel. They are introduced in the form of barroom dialogues or reflections by the main character. Patachula, the affectionate name by which the protagonist calls his best friend, is, in fact, a victim of 11-M. Everyday violence and family conflicts also appear in the pages of the book, as well as the love of culture and literature and loyalty to animals. Los vencejos is a novel with a bittersweet flavour in which, as well as death, there is room for love and friendship. Aramburu constructs an intimate plot full of real characters, who move in real environments and familiar settings.
The protagonist of the novel speaks openly about suicide
Aramburu commented in a recent interview that one of the questions that made him decide to write this work was the question of what a man would do if he knew the exact moment when he was going to die and that he himself had decided to die. How could this situation affect a person, would he maintain our moral values, would he discover new priorities, would he paradoxically give more value to life, would he finally be afraid of dying?.
The character alludes to death, of course, on many occasions throughout the novel. To death and suicide. A theme that has been dealt with countless times in both literature and film. The novel is structured in a multitude of short sequences that do not follow a linear chronological course. Like our thoughts, it jumps from idea to idea, from memory to memory, to compose a life or what we remember of it. In short, Los vencejos is an absolutely recommendable read that will make us reflect on the meaning of life and time.
The author Fernando Aramburu
Fernando Aramburu (San Sebastian, 1949) has a degree in Hispanic philology from the University of Zaragoza. He was a member of the CLOC Group for Art and Artlessness. Already considered one of the most outstanding storytellers in the Spanish language, he is the author of the novels Fuegos con limón ( 1996), Los ojos vacíos ( 2000), which together with Bami sin sombra ( 2005) and La gran Marivián ( 2013) make up the “Antíbula Trilogy”, El trompetista del Utopía ( 2003), Viaje con Clara por Alemania ( 2010), Años lentos ( 2012, VII Premio Tusquets Editores de Novela and Premio de los Libreros de Madrid) and Ávidas pretensiones ( Premio Biblioteca Breve 2014). As a short story writer, he has published Los peces de la amargura ( 2006, XI Premio Vargas Llosa NH, IV Premio Dulce Chacón and Premio Real Academia Española 2008) and El vigilante del fiordo ( 2011). In 2016 he published the acclaimed Patria, an essential, extremely brave and moving story
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