Posted by: Lisa Hill | September 7, 2017

Sensational Snippets: Confessions (2011), by Jaume Cabré, translated by Mara Faye Lethem

ConfessionsI am whiling away the days here in Noumea with a wonderful book called Confessions, by Jaume Cabre.  It’s 750+ pages long, and I have no idea how I will attempt to review it in due course, but for now I wanted to share Chapter 29 because it is about a subject dear to all our hearts…

Now that his mother has died, Adrià Ardèvol is moving into his parents’ flat in Barcelona, and the time has come to take the books out of the cartons that have been forming an obstacle course in the corridors.  He calls his best (and only) friend Bernat to come and help…

He turned on the light and there was light.  And he called Bernat to come over and help him plan this ideal order, as if Bernat were Plato and he Pericles, and the flat in the Eixample the bustling city of Athens.  And thus the two wise men decided that into the study would go the manuscripts, the incunabala that he would buy, the delicate objects, the books of the fathers, the records, the scores, and the most commonly used dictionaries, and they divided the waters from below from those above and the firmament was made with its clouds, separate from the sea waters.  In his parents’ bedroom, which he had managed to make his own, they found a place for the poetry and music books, and they separated the lower waters so there was a dry place, and they gave that dry place the name earth, and they called the waters ocean seas.  In his childhood bedroom, beside Sheriff Carson and valiant Black Eagle [toys who were companions in Adrià’s lonely unloved childhood] who kept constant watch from the bedside table, they emptied out, without a second glance, all the shelves of books that had accompanied him as a child and there they put the history books, from the birth of memory to the present day. And geography as well and the earth began to have trees and seeds that germinated and sprouted grasses and flowers. (p.358)

And so they continue through the house, filling every room with books on shelves commissioned from a local carpenter.  They have a minor argument, as friends of longstanding do, about whether the laundry should have shelves or not and Adrià finally acquiesces to the idea of having someone coming in to clean and she needing a space for her mops and buckets.  (But Adrià reneges on this and Caterina ends up having to live with fine art books and encyclopedias. Visibly wrinkling her nose did her no good).

The hallways are lined with books of literary prose, arranged by language. (Adrià speaks about a dozen languages, he’s lost count). The dining room has literary essays and literary and art theory.  The guest room has religion, theology, ethnology and the Graeco-Roman world and in seven days the flat resembles the world created by a deity , complete with wild animals populating the earth i.e. books on biology.

But (and this is the bit that insisted I share it with you) there are still those childhood books:

And, seated on the dark floor of hallway one, they reviewed their melancholy.   ‘Boy, Karl May.  I have a lot of his too.’

‘Look: Salgari.  God, no: I have twelve Salgaris.’

‘And Verne.  I had this one with engravings by Doré.’

‘Where is it now?’

‘Who knows?’

‘And Enid Blyton.  Not the strongest prose.  But I read them thirty times over.’

‘What are you going to do with the Tintins?’

‘I don’t want to throw anything out.  But I don’t know where to put it all.’

‘You still have a lot of room.’

And the Lord said yes, I still have a lot of room, but I want to keep buying books.  And my problem is where do I put my karlmays and julesvernes, you know?  And the other said I understand. And they saw that in the bathroom there was a space between the little closet and the ceiling, and Planas, enthused, made a sturdy double shelf and all the books he had read as a child went to rest there. (p362).

So they weren’t thrown out after all!

You can see why I”m spending more time loafing about with a book than being out and about doing touristy things in New Caledonia, eh?




  1. Love it! You’re doing well to be where it’s much warmer



    • Yes, I see from the weather forecasts on ABC Online that Melbourne has abandoned spring for the time being, but hopefully it will be back by the time we get home:)


  2. Lovely prose! I have most of my father’s books though still a dozen boxes of war histories stacked in the spare room. Would never leave my childhood books till last! The special ones are in the lounge and the remainder are with my daughter or her mother where the grandkids can read them.


    • Well, you’ve seen my place, Bill, but I think that Adrià has a few more than me!


  3. Love the quotes from this book. I also hope you got to the aquarium. We were there several years ago. An old aquarium and I believe the only one in the world with natural light from outdoors. I really enjoyed seeing it. Keep reading and relaxing.


  4. PS…there used to be an English bookstore there in the city. We spent aa cool afternoon there as it was so hot we could hardly bare the heat. It had a cat that lived there with the owner. I wonder if it is still there. Think it was in an old house.


    • I think it would be unbearable in summer… it felt like about 30 today and that was enough for me. (English genes).
      I haven’t had a bookish moment on this trip, though there were some ancient books in the dugong room, something to do with a French underwater explorer, I think. I should have taken a photo!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The books sounds wonderful. I can borrow it from my library in Spanish but my Spanish is not very good, I have placed an inter-library loan. Well, you are on holidays and you are supposed to relax. Maybe sit by your window and read.


    • Meg, I have never had this kind of loafing about holiday before: we have always had a full itinerary of castles and museums and art galleries to visit because that is what we like to do best of all. I’ve never been much good at idleness!

      Liked by 1 person

      • It takes a lot of work to be really idle though admittedly to some people it comes naturally.


  6. I see this book in my local library every time I visit it but I’m not sure if it appeals to me.


    • I think it’s wonderful. I wish I could remember who recommended it to me, I bought it back in 2015 according to the receipt I left inside it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. […] you know if you saw the Sensational Snippet I posted from Jaume Cabré’s Confessions, I found this 750+ page chunkster so absorbing that […]


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