Severina by Rodrigo Rey Rosa for Spanish Lit Month


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This is is a novel I would not have discovered without the review at seraillon. And it is without a doubt a book I would have sorely missed had I not read it. At sixty-four pages, it can be read in a single evening…for some of you, in a single hour. But, it is not a book to be rushed.

Is it a mystery? Is it an ode to the love of literature? Is it a romantic story of one bookseller’s passion for a beautiful woman who comes in and steals his books? It is all three.

Our narrator owns a bookstore named La Entretenida (literally, The Entertaining) into which Severina walks one day. When she leaves, she has “slipped two little books from the Japanese section into her bag.” Every time she comes to the store she takes a few books. Every time she takes a few books he records the missing titles along with the date and time. But, he does nothing to stop her.

In fact, he falls in love with her.

It is almost with obsession that he follows her and her grandfather, whom he has been told is her husband by another bookshop owner, to their pension. Even though he knows where she lives, temporarily, and rents a room there for himself, she remains elusive. From what country does she come? How have they remained in Spain with false passports? All of her belongings fit into one small backpack, for she seems to live on books alone.

Of course that is fantastical. But it is a suggestion that I feel Rodrigo Rey Rosa offers up. And as a fellow bibliophile, I find myself not questioning the veracity of this story at all, especially as her grandfather explains it quite clearly below:

I ought to begin by pointing out, though it shouldn’t come as any surprise, that we’re really quite ordinary people. I have my ideas, and she goes along with them, but in her own way, of course. Books have always been my life. Both my father and grandfather lived exclusively from books, each in his own way – books of all sorts. And I’m not speaking metaphorically: books are our sole means of subsistence,” he said and then fell silent.

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14 thoughts on “Severina by Rodrigo Rey Rosa for Spanish Lit Month”

  1. Lovely review, Bellezza. There is something elusive and utterly beguiling about this little novella. I read it last year, but your post has me reaching for it again…

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  2. I’m so happy you read this one and shared about it, because now I’ve heard about it. I’ve added it to my TBR pile and can’t wait to experience it. Great post, M!

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  3. I thought you’d like this, Bellezza, and am glad you did. I love the idea of this gang of people – so much like ourselves – for whom books are sustenance to the point that a bookshop owner is more interested in the titles being pilfered than in stopping the pilfering (most bookshop owners, I’m sure, would not find it as appealing). There’s a terrific list of books mentioned throughout this novel; perhaps someone should organize a group read around that.

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    1. Oh, Scott, I wondered the same thing as I read: wouldn’t it be wonderful to organize a group read around the titles Rey included! Are you game? Is it a rhetorical question? It would be fun to pick out at least one to read along with others, and if you have a favorite from the list I’d be glad to put it together.

      Or, if you were just salivating over the titles as I was, we can leave it to ourselves to pick them up as time allows.

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      1. Ha! A question somewhere between rhetorical and straightforward… I’ll look over the titles again and think about this. But a group read, sure, why not? If not the whole list, a selection of one or two or three. Jane Bowles’ Two Serious Ladies is on that list, as I recall, and I’ll re-read that any old day.

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    1. I know! I loved that the first thing Severina stole was a few Japanese literature books! Not that I advocate stealing, of course… 🙂 You would like this book, Parrish.

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