The Accordionist's Son, By Bernardo Atxaga, trans Margaret Jull Costa

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The Independent Culture

Atxaga's magisterial novel explores the life of David Imaz, a Basque immigrant, now dying on a ranch in California. Growing up a generation after the Spanish Civil War, he divides his time between his uncle's farm and the village, where he practises the accordion on the insistence of his authoritarian father.

Increasingly aware of gossip, he hears rumours that nine locals were summarily shot in Obaba after Franco's fascists took control. Realising that his father might have been involved starts a generational rift. Strong characters inject an intensity into a novel that refuses to romanticise the past.