The Goldsmith’s Secret
“Love is short, forgetting is so long” wrote the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in poem XX of Twenty Songs of Love and a Song of Despair. This verse condenses the life and longings of the protagonist of this new romantic novel by Elia Barceló.
The opening scene is a snowy night in the city of New York: the echoes of the songs of Leonard Cohen fade away, giving way to nostalgic recollections. We are presented with a pensive man, a goldsmith, who has excelled at his craft because he has turned it into an act of remembrance of Celia, his lost love, thus hoping to fill the vacuum that she left in his life. The rest of the novel is a reflection upon how the memories of love often confuse past with present, and influence the future.
Yet Barceló is not simply content to make a point of a love-infused nostalgia that afflicts us all, but actually plays with time and chronology in order to present us with a story that is both credible and incredible, amidst snapshots of Spain in the Fifties, Seventies and the last year of the 20th century. The prose is concise and lyrical, even deceptively simple, as the poetic sentences hide a complex and playful structure built with the intention of showing how the goldsmith’s present and past selves influence his views on love, his way of loving Celia.
Taking into account the unforgiving nature of time and the rapid changes in landscape, it is finally up to the reader to decide whether the goldsmith’s love was kept alive because it was impossible or because it gave way to a journey of self-discovery.