Authors: Max Besora, Mara Faye Lethem
Extent: 400 pp
Publication: June 2021
Publisher: Open Letter
Joan Orpí (Piera, 1593 – New Barcelona, 1645) is one of the most unknown characters in Spanish history. In this torrential book we are told the odyssey that brought him first to Barcelona, later to Sevilla and finally to America, where he would experience all kinds of outlandish situations.
Using historical facts as raw material, and with stellar appearances of characters such as Miguel de Cervantes or the brigand Serrallonga among others, Besora converses with the satirical tradition of works such as Gargantua and Pantagruel, Gulliver’s Travels or Don Quixote, to paint a fresco of Catalonia in the seventeenth century and the Golden Age of the Spanish empire, creating a novel, fresh, sharp and bursting with exuberant adventures.
A triumphant, playful masterpiece brought into a unique style of English thanks to the triumphant creativity of translator Mara Faye Lethem.
If Cervantes and the Monty Python guys were shoved into the Large Hadron Collider – and Earth didn’t explode – we might get something like Joan Orpí. How lucky are we to be alive! And to have Max Besora! Ryan Chapman, author of Riots I Have Known
Orpí’s escapades involve witches and brigands, scheming aristocrats and rebellious slaves, another man’s unfaithful wife and the liberated bride of a colonial grandee, even “a giant squid of colossal proportions.” He makes friends with a depressed knight who abhors violence and conspires with a prisoner whose tattoos are purported to reveal an escape route. And it all makes a weirdly riotous kind of sense. As the captain has explained at the outset, although he heard Orpí’s tale from a man who was “four sheets to the wind. Nonetheless, I didst believe him. New York Times Book Review
Dark humor, history, fiction, and misadventures collide in Spanish writer Besora’s wildly imaginative and irreverent English-language debut. . . . Drama, unbelievable escapades, copious footnotes, and comedy blend together seamlessly, and they make Orpí’s life one of the most remarkable in contemporary literature. Publishers Weekly, starred review