Land of Olives
Antonio Ferres was born in Madrid in 1924. The son of a landless Andalusian peasant imprisoned by the Nationalists after the war, he had a variety of jobs before becoming a writer. One of these, as commercial traveller, took him through the remote areas of Andalusia—one of the potentially richest and presently poorest parts of Spain, whose villages are rapidly becoming depopulated as landless peasants emigrate en masse for France and Germany. The mixture of rage and resignation with which the Andalusian peasant lives a life at the mercy of a few landlords cultivating a single crop—olives—which give work for only a few months a year, is the subject of his latest book, Tierra de Olivos. Like many of the young generation of Spanish writers, among them Juan Goytisolo and Armando Lopez Salinas with whom his name has been linked, Ferres has turned to reportage to give an account of contemporary Spanish reality. Through his job, Ferres was able to come into closer contact with Andalusian life than most outsiders; the commercial traveller, particularly if he is thought to be selling smuggled British goods from Gibraltar, is often the natural supplier of lingerie and other small luxuries among village women who are not only diffident of shops in the towns but rarely get to them anyway. The author’s detached, dispassionate tone serves to heighten the book’s intensity; it may also have helped the book past the Spanish censor. Tierra de Olivos, of which the following is an extract, is only his second book to be published in Spain. The first, La Piqueta, a novel, appeared in 1959. A second novel, Los Vencidos, has been published only in Italy, while two later novels remain unpublished.
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