Come on Up

Come on Up by Catalan writer Jordi Nopca, translated by Mara Faye Lethem, collects 11 stories that feature people wounded by Barcelona's economic downturn of the 2010s. These stories movingly illustrate the human shame of financial insecurity, with multidimensional characters that give life to sterile government jobless reports. Nopca excels at inserting tragicomic elements to keep his stories from becoming depressingly grim. In "Àngels Quintana and Fèlix Palme Have Problems," Felix, frustrated and hopeless, secretly shoves bananas into tailpipes throughout the city, causing chaos. "Is this banana battalion another silent way of saying 'We've had enough,' from a highly qualified generation of those who still haven't found their place in a job market that's turned its back on them?" a TV journalist asks, completely oblivious to Felix's category of unemployed: those who have no particular skills and "felt more lost and more useless with each passing day."

Even characters with jobs fear that any day could be their last. In "Swiss Army Knife," Octavi sells coffee pots door to door, and is constantly worried about keeping his job. Speaking about his boss, he says, "I couldn't believe that after twenty years at the company he still couldn't pronounce my last name correctly." Nopca's under- or unemployed characters have no time for introspection: "Having lost the possibility of imagining grand plans, they all pretty much lived from day to day."

This collection convincingly illustrates the stressors of life in modern cities and the weight that hopelessness carries. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

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