... depicts the griefs and joys of one human family against the vibrant backdrop of the Pyrenees mountains where they live. With its crisp prose, compassionate eye, and emotional precision, Solà’s novel pays tribute to the interconnectedness of the natural world. When I Sing, Mountains Dance illustrates that when we step back to see those connections, our own lives take on greater meaning ... Solà encourages us to view the world from more than just a human perspective ... Solà invites us to settle into each perspective—and, in doing so, to feel as much sorrow for the frightened fawn skittering away from the gunshot as we do for Hilari’s death ... Solà also encourages temporal empathy by zooming in and panning out, challenging human conceptions of time ... Solà’s kaleidoscopic technique offers perspective on Sió’s grief but does not diminish it. When I Sing, Mountains Dance triumphs because Solà gives voice to many perspectives and, in doing so, infuses the human characters’ experiences with greater poignancy.
... inventive and lyrical ... By setting past and present side by side, and plunging us into human and nonhuman perspectives, Solà reveals the beauty and brutality of life in a mountain village that holds the scars of the past but also the seeds of slow repair and renewal ... Moving from the perspective of the rain clouds, the chanterelles, the bailiff, and the roe-buck, Solà moves through the story like a dance, flinging the reader from one elemental force to another ... [a] work of unexpected emotional power.
Voiced by a variety of non-human narrators (including animals, plants and natural phenomena), the landscape itself becomes the protagonist, making the reader constantly aware of its separate, living consciousness ... these are the areas that have most resisted Spanish influence: where fluency in Catalan is common, and local cultural history best preserved. When I Sing is replete with that history, its mythos and literature ... Mara Faye Lethem’s translation magnificently preserves the dreamy, haunting tone of the original. Some subtle nuances of the culture—and the power dynamic between Spanish and Catalan—are unavoidably lost, but Lethem ensures that Solà’s distinctive lyricism survives in English. When I Sing, Mountains Dance illuminates the delicate, mutable relationship we have to the places that dictate how we understand ourselves. It is a testament to what an author can achieve by sifting through the past and interrogating the world around them to create stories rich with meaning.
Set among the villages, forests and rivers of the Pyrenees, the book builds a layered history of the area while focusing primarily on one family ... This democratic approach to storytelling works remarkably well. The chapter told from the perspective of the dog is one of the best: funny, intimate and sad. The witches we hear from are enjoyably cackling and foul ... an out-of-town hiker is superbly patronising ... Other sections are slightly less good. Hilari, in particular, hasn’t much to say except effusive slogans ... Solà’s prose, excellently translated from the original Catalan, is expansive and tactile. Her sentences accumulate, running along, taking in as much as possible, senses alert ... There are numerous memorable moments of deeply felt contact—with the landscape, with animals, or between people ... Solà convincingly implicates everyone in the quickening pace of history and environmental decline; there are apocalyptic warnings. Will they be heeded? In the meantime, this attentive, playful, responsive novel makes an excellent case for stopping and listening.
Solà’s novel affords the [Pyrenees] region a profound sense of humanity ... When I Sing, Mountains Dance demonstrates how bitterly difficult it is for humans to process a loved one’s passing. Death, Solà tells us, will always be resisted by mortal beings ... I wanted more of the witches, of the deer, of the fungi and the mountains. Since the novel reads like a folktale, its writing works best when playing with the perspectives of nature. Its shortcomings were especially apparent with each new chapter narrated from the perspective of a human ... most of the human narrators in When I Sing, Mountains Dance are contemporaries living in the same village, leaving the reader to guess who is narrating each chapter. I found myself wanting more of the surreal voice Solà lent to the mountains ... a novel brimming with hope for future generations, and for the vitality of the Pyrenees mountains.
... intoxicating ... The novel’s poetics are of a primordial sort, encompassing both geographical upheavals and the detritus left behind by outside conflicts ... Though the story shifts with each chapter, musing on the gifts and limitations of life on the mountain from various perspectives, it always flows back into a traceable line. Happiness and sorrow are complex prospects in these wilds, where history only passes through; and even as the mountain dwellers cling to the heirlooms of their singular place, the mountain itself anticipates their eventual dispersion. When I Sing, The Mountains Dance is an uncommon novel set in a singular place.
Solà offers a fabulous amalgam of the grief of one family and the glorious setting of a Catalan village high in the Pyrenees. A poet, fiction writer, and artist, Solà infuses this world with personality by giving natural elements voices and emotions. The laughter and anger of the clouds and the roe deer are woven into the legends of the region, creating an imaginative context for a powerful story of life, love, and loss ... Lethem’s translation preserves the linguistic artistry of the original in the way the multiple narrators’ respective personalities and complex secrets emerge and in how the descriptions of place, weather, the seasons, plants, and animals are all integral to character revelation and plot development. Solà’s immersive and memorable novel has the deceptively simple elegance and depth of a folktale.
Catalan author and artist Irene Solà concocts a heady mixture of folklore, poetry and humor in her European Union Prize-winning novel, When I Sing, Mountains Dance. In a vibrant evocation of the Pyrenees, the mountainous borderland between Spain and France, Solà achieves a panoramic sense of place by leaping between perspectives with a verve that lends an animating energy to every facet of the land and its creatures.
Solà's kaleidoscopic technique vividly evokes a landscape dense with violence and beauty, where village children bring home grenades scattered decades before by retreating Republican soldiers, the local festival celebrates the emergence of bears from hibernation, and second sight is matter-of-factly accepted ... The overlapping, multifaceted points of view serve to deepen and enrich the human struggles, which, far from being muted, are rendered instead more urgent, more moving by being inextricably linked to the region's natural history and its past ... A masterfully written, brilliantly conceived book that combines depth and breadth superbly.
Solà’s vivid and magical tale, winner of the European Union Prize, brings to life a small Pyrenees village ... In language at turns poetic and stark, Solà offers a fresh and mythic work that fully reckons with the beauty and savagery of a landscape. It’s a fine achievement.