The Selected Letters of Mercè Rodoreda and Joan Sales


The number that precedes each letter indicates its chronological order.



Geneva, 17 January 1961

Mr. Joan Sales



Dear Sir,

I’ve been away from Geneva for a few days, and I happened on your letter upon my return. I’ve asked the prize office to give me back Colometa, because I want to read it over again and possibly make one small correction. It won’t take more than fifteen days. But I’ll return it as soon as it’s ready. A change in title, if the Club dels Novel·listes does indeed agree to publish it, would prove a bit difficult. Perhaps your concerns are commercial in nature—that a novel in competition for the Premi Sant Jordi ought to come out looking just the same as how it went in, etc.—but if your concerns are not commercial in nature, I would like to keep the title as is, for reasons close to my heart. It’s not the title that makes the novel, rather, it’s the novel that makes the title. In other words: maybe. I have a feeling that I could write more novels, better or worse than this one, but for the time being, my only novel is, and shall remain, simply Colometa. It’s not my ambition as a writer that moves me to speak this way—I haven’t any—but rather, a keen sense of the reality.

Very grateful for your kind letter. I still haven’t received anything from Xavier Benguerel. If you happen to see Mr. Joan Fuster, whom I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting in person, do send him my regards. And I shall take another few words to wish a happy new year. Those are for you.


M. Rodoreda


Barcelona, 16 May 1961

Mrs. Mercè Rodoreda



Dear Madam,

I arrive at my office deadly tired, and the fault is entirely yours. I spent all of last night reading your novel, unable to put it down. It has been a long time since any book has stolen such sleep from me.

I find this novel simply formidable. I did have Joan Fuster’s kind words in the back of my mind, and those of Joan Triadú, too, as I began to read, but my astonishment only kept growing by the page, as a crescendo that reached its peak right on the final word. I feel the praise of my two friends doesn’t do enough justice, even though Joan Fuster in particular had been quite insistent.

Xavier Benguerel (whom I will send a copy of this letter) will be quite pleased. Ever since he and I first assumed the quixotic undertaking that is the Club dels Novel·listes, he hasn’t shut up about soliciting a novel from you. I’m loath to solicit novels from anyone, out of concern that such novels are prone to coming out forced, and then must be rejected—that miserable duty to which we who undertake book production find ourselves responsible—which leaves their authors room to reply, and with good reason, “Well, then why solicit them?” If I made an exception to solicit you, I owe it to the pressure of Joan Fuster’s kind words, which if, at the time, struck me as rather generous, now seem much too stingy.

This novel is your master work, and differs, in my view, greatly from all your others to date, as if with this work your literary career has truly begun, beyond any measure of a doubt; your past books, in light of the present one, appear to have been the preparation that led you here. For this one, from beginning to end, possesses that inimitable air of something inspired; the word “inspiration” has been quite discredited, and rightly so, considering the abuse it has suffered at the hands of self-proclaimed “inspired” writers; but in truth there is no other word for expressing a phenomenon as mysterious as literary creation. True inspiration has often nothing to do with “ease;” quite the reverse, in fact, it can demand at times considerable blood and sweat. One comes to naught except through monumental effort, straining toward a mountaintop almost beyond access. With this novel, you’ve reached that mountaintop.

Colometa is one of those indelible figures who, by virtue of their author’s talent, come strangely alive, as if they’ve always existed, and we’ve always known them. The novel’s other characters aren’t as striking, yet each one has a face, each one you can almost see. You evoke the setting—working-class Gràcia—with rare intensity; the particulars that bring it to life, and lend it a sense of reality; the attention you pay to sociolect, to the idioms of the working class, as well as their taste in matters of décor, celebration, etc.; their beliefs in matters of morality, religion, medicine, politics; all studiously gathered, and ever so rich. What is more (as if there could even be any more), in the background we detect a theme, barely spoken, barely even insinuated, but which the reader, torn between laughter and tears, sees and feels all the while. Colometa is ever bordering the precipice of absurdism, but by some quirk of divine grace, she never tumbles over. Her life is not absurd, although it very well could be, because Colometa is good—and it is this Goodness that is the great mystery, the truly great mystery surrounding us all, freeing us, redeeming us. This is the origin of her curious love for her second husband, this goodness that no one ever speaks but never quite goes away…In short, I could analyze this novel forever, because, honest to God, it’s a work with neither top nor bottom to contain it, like life itself.

And what a discovery, the style is. It truly gives one the feeling that this is Colometa in person, explaining herself to herself in a monologue so richly psychological, of the greatest kind of divine disorder, human in the finest sense. The late, tragic history of our wretched country breathes in and out of this poor little soul, this perfect nobody…. What a singular impression it leaves, to observe the grand narrative through such a pretty little head!

If I may be so bold, I do have reservations concerning the use of half a dozen words, which sound unnatural in Colometa’s mouth. I imagine you placed them there in the mistaken belief that they were necessary. They are as follows (I’ve added my suggestions beside them):

wife = spouse

burial = burying

footpath = sidewalk

dome = glass dome, or crystal dome (A hard choice. We should consult with Coromines or Moll.)

bedchamber = room or bedroom (depending on whether it’s for sleeping.)

grief = I really don’t know. (You’d put “condolences” at first, which is the way people say it, which you then corrected to “grief,” a thing no one says, especially not the working class of Gràcia.)

Of all these words, the one that sounds the strangest in Colometa’s mouth is “dome,” with its pedantic, Latin origin. This preference for the Latin “-omus” is probably one of the most egregious errors of Pompeu Fabra, who very rarely misses the mark.

As you can see, they’re such small things, and I hope you’ll agree with the substitutions. With these half dozen reservations, Colometa’s vocabulary, which is incredibly rich, is completely “working-class Gràcia,” through and through. A stylistic tour de force!

Now that I’ve read the novel, far from finding your proposed titles any more viable, I find them even more cruelly unsuitable. Neither Colometa nor Flock of Doves. I would search for a title like A Rooftop in Gràcia, for instance, something more in the vein of the great films of Italian neorealism—your novel, if we were to classify it, would fall fully within the genre of neorealism, in the best and most current sense of the term. If you can’t come up with something better, A Rooftop in Gràcia seems fine to me. In fact, the roof plays a role of primary importance in this novel. If it weren’t necessary to secure the censor’s approval (which must be done rather far in advance), we could hold off on the naming until the final moment, but by now we ought to have decided on one title or another.

Speaking of the censor, remember you ought to send me two copies, even if they’re hideous.

My heartfelt congratulations. I happily extend my warmest regards.

Joan Sales


Geneva, 7 June 1961

Mr. Joan Sales



My dear friend,

You’ll have to excuse me for not getting back to you a bit more quickly. Your letter, which made me so very happy, reached me smack in the middle of a cold. I shouldn’t have to tell you the thrill it gave me, or that it makes up for all the headache poor Colometa has given me. So our biggest problem is the title, it seems. A Rooftop in Gràcia is not a bad name for a novel, although it fixes the story too strongly to the place. There’s also the question of style, and if A Flock of Doves sounds to you like a title held together with putty, A Rooftop in Gràcia strikes me as a novel that isn’t mine. Perhaps we’re getting too worked up about this. I’ve picked out phrases from the novel, and made quite a nice list of them, but it’s no use. This title business is the biggest thing holding us back, and it’s beginning to concern me.

One more thing: the draft of the novel that I have is very different from the final version. I don’t know if you could use it for the censor. I’ve gone through the text from top to bottom with my typewriter, so perhaps it’s better that I send you a fresh copy. I imagine it shouldn’t take more than two or three weeks to get it to you. I’ve fixed the “dome” problem. I put “bell glass.” So much nicer.

I’m writing a lot and one day, if we’re all still alive, I will present you with one of the most important novels to be written in Europe in thousands of years. And it shall be a love story.

Many thanks for everything. I wish you the most wonderful day!

Affectionately yours,

Mercè Rodoreda


Barcelona, 1 December 1961

Mrs. Mercè Rodoreda


My dear friend,

Your letter from the 27th has arrived, and only a moment ago, I received Time of the Doves, which I will take to the typesetter this very afternoon.

It goes without saying that I respect all your decisions—as I only must—considering that you make them, as you say, “after long reflection.” Don’t worry yourself over the typesetter or the proofreader. I have them both very well trained and they wouldn’t dare try anything clever. My very first time, I discovered that the typesetter had unabbreviated every Mr. and Mrs.! Terrible, just terrible…. And when I pressed the poor fellow, he told me that the proofreader always made him do it. So I scolded the proofreader. And now they don’t dare take such liberties.

I believe it is the typesetters and proofreaders who are chiefly to blame for the horrific “literary Catalan” that has for many years been in vogue (and o! doth persist).

Agreed about condolences. No one says it any other way.

I cannot make hide nor tail of your crusade against sidewalk—many members of the Philological Section at the Institut d’Estudis Catalans advocate accepting it—and even less, the one against bedroom, at least in phrases such as dark bedroom, which have no substitute. In case you would like to change your mind (as wise people often do), I will tell you that I have spoken to many members of the Philological Section—such as my daughter’s father-in-law, Pere Bohigas, as well as Moll, among others—about this dark bedroom business, and they all believe dark bedchamber sounds ridiculous, as it evokes the physical experience of the time period before photography, and not at all the familiar dark bedroom one can find in any house. I will also say that dark bedroom is not just an expression in Barcelona, but everywhere, in every region. In Mallorca and Valencia, to name just a few, there’s no other way to say it.

Of course, if you stubbornly insist, it shall read dark bedchamber rather than dark bedroom. But it will make for a rather notable case of stubbornness. Perhaps it’s a matter of the sexes. Women have long had a reputation for being stubborn as mules, if you don’t mind my saying so.

I will send you the galleys just as you asked.

Tell me how you would like me to send the ten thousand pesetas that the Club owes you. Or, if you’d like, I could deposit them in an account under your name, here in Barcelona.

I would be very pleased if they gave you the Sant Jordi. But every literary prize is a lottery. What you’ve told me about Death in Spring has roused my curiosity, and I eagerly look forward to reading it. It may be a work of genius—from the author of Time of the Doves, we might expect anything—or it may be a failure from start to finish. From what you’ve told me, I’m worried that you have taken up an unrealistic subject-matter, of no relation to living, breathing people and their actual affairs. The complete reverse of Time of the Doves, in other words. Grand, unrealistic novels are not impossible, of course—but they are rare! And even those that are truly grand are awful to read if they are not realistic….

You tell me that if I have understood your letter, it is because I am very intelligent. Which made me wonder whether I haven’t made an enemy, because I don’t know whom else you could have in mind. Maybe I’m just being an ass. I’m still a bit perplexed trying to understand what I would do well to understand.

Don’t forget to notify me of your decision regarding the ten thousand pesetas. Which, alas, I would have preferred to be a hundred thousand—but for the time being, the Catalan reading public can only give so much.

Affectionately yours,



Geneva, 3 January 1962

Mr. Joan Sales



My dear friend,

I’ll read the galleys as soon as you send them, and I won’t let them fall by the wayside. Time solely for reading them. I’ve already told you that I have an exact duplicate of the original. I mean for you to send me just the galleys. Another thing: I want to tell you that I’m very happy that you’re the editor for Time of the Doves, and that, even if at times we fight like cats and dogs, we never draw blood.

I’ll send you Death in Spring within the next two months, possibly three. Forget everything you’ve previously heard or imagined about it. Do understand that it’s something I’ve rushed as to be able to submit it for the Sant Jordi. But it is, or could be, an extraordinary novel. Perhaps you won’t care for it; but it is good. Be patient, whether you like it or you don’t.

Affectionately yours,

M. Rodoreda

P.S. I don’t want sidewalk. Or bedroom.


Geneva, 27 February 1962


My dear Mr. Sales,

Show me the proofs!

M. Rodoreda


Barcelona, 8 March 1962

Mrs. Mercè Rodoreda


My dear friend,

Life is not without its surprises, and not all of them are pleasant. The day that I had hoped to obtain the complete set of page proofs—last Friday, the 2nd of March—and ship them to you via airmail, I was called to my bed by a formidable attack of the gallbladder, which, I must confess, had me seeing stars. For three days I was able to tolerate existence solely by the aid of copious injections of morphine, after which, the pain vanished at once, as always seems to occur. The doctor, however, strictly forbade me from leaving the house for a minimum of three additional days. Which, on the other hand, I wouldn’t have done of my own free will, given the pathetic and bedridden state I had been reduced to by all the morphine.

In any case, I was able to slip out of the house on Tuesday, past both my doctor and my wife, and make it to the printer’s to pick up the proofs and take them to the post office, where I sent them via certified airmail. I returned home by taxi directly after, then went back to bed.

Over the table in my office I noticed the telephone operator had left me a note saying that you had called twice from Geneva. I imagine that by the time this packet arrives you’ll have already received the one with the other proofs, and now that you’ve heard my gallbladder saga, you may even feel remorse for having been such a badger. (I received your SOS—Send proofs!—just before the formidable attack). But there’s no need to feel sorry: aside from this miserable fog I’m in, owing to the morphine hangover, I feel perfectly fine, and unbeknownst to both my doctor and my wife, I’m already back to smoking like a chimney.

If today I feel completely fine, that was not the case yesterday afternoon, when my literary agent delivered the bound copies of my Gloire incertaine, the first to arrive in Barcelona, and possibly the last, given all the strings I had to pull to get them through (shipped Feb. 16!); and as Gallimard didn’t care to send me page proofs—take note—I’ve been anxious to see how the edition turned out. It’s the first unabridged edition (the Catalan version came out horribly mutilated by the censor, who reduced it by half) and I made the idiotic decision to stay up the whole night reading it.

If I go to the trouble of relating all these misfortunes, it is so that you have a clear idea of the process. If every author were to work for a short time, or even a long one, as an editor, they would be much more understanding. It seems to you a very simple thing indeed that an editor, in Barcelona, sends to you, in Geneva, the page proofs of a book that is just about to be printed.

But think nothing of it. Send me back the proofs via airmail the moment you’re through with them.

If this letter has turned out rather a mess, and a bit like a tango, I do apologize. My head is swimming from the morphine. If I could only nap for twelve straight hours, naturally, no morphine, I’m sure I would be right as rain.

I’m going to leave you now with a line plucked from the obituaries: please pray for the soul of

Joan Sales


Geneva, 8 March 1962


My dear friend Sales,

I received the proofs at five this afternoon. It’s now four in the morning, and I’ve just finished looking them over.

If I’m spelling everything out for you more or less clearly, it’s because I want the edits to look the way I made them. I find it ridiculous you set me such a task. I gave you an impeccable text and you’ve butchered it with your little jokes and asides; like crumbs sprinkled over a beautifully taut canvas. The edits (which are not in fact “edits”) honestly won’t mean such a hassle as you might imagine. In any case, if this should harm you financially—as I’ve never liked harming anyone—let me know the scope of the harm, when it comes time.

I’m unable to plug the holes as you’ve requested, or make up for them elsewhere, because there are no holes. Restrain yourself to the text I gave you, as well as these edits I’ve made to the proofs as to restore the text to its original form. If you’ve allowed yourself absurd liberties, that’s not my fault. I repeat, however, that I am disinclined toward causing you any financial harm. I will pay whatever it costs, because I want the novel to be good.

Affectionately yours,

M. Rodoreda


P.S. I will be away from Geneva some five or six days. I leave tomorrow night.

As for the mailing address, which is the same as the one on the original text, I would like you to make it out to “ J.P.”

And, at the end of the novel, the date and place: Geneva, February-September 1960.


p. 10 — Two typos. I don’t remember the symbol for “separation.”

p. 11 — A butchered a.

p. 17 — I don’t like light. Leave match, which was fine already.

p. 24 — The meaning is clear as it is. Deleting me sounds dreadful.

p. 25 — I don’t at all care for this change. Absolutely atrocious. It’s not that she’s crumpling it into a ball while she’s hiding. It’s that she hides because she threw it.

p. 27 — I won’t accept picture. Even if your dear friend Benguerel does—at long last—in The Final Will.

p. 28 — I’ll leave louse even though I don’t at all care for it. Lice is infinitely better. Lice is great. But I’m leaving it the way it is so as to leave you at least one page intact. Such a stupid change.

p. 29 — Edge, not ledge. An edge is a kind of tool, and a ledge is something totally different. A cliff ledge. And edge sounds better. What do I care if people say ledge?

p. 34 — At mother’s house. Don’t make me sound like Ferran Canyameres.

p. 36 — Again with this at mother’s “place” and at the neighbor’splace.” Have you no sense? Or taste?

p. 37 — The real expression is: the girl is cute. It’s generally said to a girl by a boy when he’s with his friends. But he says it for the friends. And it’s not she. It’s the girl. Period. You’re cute isn’t at all charming. It’s idiotic.

p. 41 — To prepare a surprise doesn’t make sense. (They prepared everything for the surprise.) Here’s an example from Fabra that might be of some use to you: Prepare the instruments for surgery!

p. 51 — I left the there there.

p. 57 — Anyone who doesn’t know the meaning of carbonated water (which comes from carbonation) should go string himself up by the rafters. The day that I do write a novel with slang I’ll put things in it that will make your head spin. But in a novel as elegant as Doves, I’ll have no such twaddle. (Even if three million asses think it’s funny.)

p. 59 — A storm of fragrance and iridescence—the flowers are both fragrant and iridescent. They aren’t shop stalls of many colors. Even if all the -nce irritates you, it sounds nicer, make no mistake. –Efflorescence, fragrance, iridescence!!!

p. 84 — Around, not round. This one is my fault.

p. 88 — Three meters long is what I said. If it causes you anguish to say meters then let’s not quarrel over it. But instead of fifteen, I’m putting ten. But look closely—if you have the time and energy. I see more meters ahead. It’s not important. You can leave it ten in the first spot.

p. 114 — Picked at. It’s very Ferran Canyameres. Pecked at. Doves peck at things. They don’t pick at them.

p. 116 — Line 19. I had (which was fantastic): my house had become a messy house, not that the house had become a mess. I’ve never seen such an obsession for replacing things that are perfectly fine with things that are awful.

p. 120 — A dud. A little tricky to neaten up. We could join this paragraph to the paragraph of dialogue that starts Since my son, etc…. We’d gain some page space.

p. 135 — I would say: I haven’t got any time to waste, and not I haven’t any time to waste. I see you’ve systematically deleted all my got’s. I won’t say another word.

p. 137 — Pelai—in Colometa’s time period, Pelayo was a name popular among Extremadurans mostly. And that’s still the case. So let’s preserve the flavor of the period.

p. 146 — I see you’ve changed under shelling to under shellfire. That’s fine.

p. 154 — I did what I was able. You, or the typesetter, had put I did what I could. (I must confess I don’t understand why.)

p. 160 — You’ve embellished the “colonies” part. I was obliged to take my son to one. The bus was the bookmobile used by the Institució de les Lletres Catalanes. And the people who came with me were (aside from my father) Lluís Muntanyà and Francesc Trabal. Oliver probably still remembers it. And I can assure you that my son wasn’t one to exaggerate, and he cried quite a bit. Exaggeration, my dear friend, accomplishes nothing. And in literature, even less. It has the reverse effect. And Colometa isn’t a comic character. To the contrary.

p. 164 — Why exaggerate? The bridge was quite enough being tall and long. It doesn’t need to be narrow, too. And everyone knows that bridges are narrow anyway. What is more unusual is having to cross a bridge that is tall and long. Because then it must also have foundation pillars. If it wasn’t too much work I would bring you a bridge right now. You make things up because you feel like it.

Line 8 — Those eyes so still, they seemed enchanted. It was infinitely better the way I had it—so still, they seemed enchanted. There’s no need to say eyes again. It adds absolutely nothing. It comes off rhetorical. Melancholic. You must think that Cintet has the eyes of a cow.

p. 165 — During the war, I never came across expired sardines. We ate them at once, and they ran out quick.

p.165 — Why terribly much? So that Colometa sounds tacky and bourgeois? Take out the terribly much. Or like one of those ladies from the Saló Rosa? Out!!!! You say you want style, but you toss in terribly much and picked at!

p. 165 — Line 28 — The joke is starting to get old. Why can’t you see that Colometa is tragic here? Why can’t you see that she evolves from the beginning to the end? Why can’t you see that all these interjections are a heap of garbage? What’s with this litany of newborns and old people, grandparents and grandchildren? It can’t have been you who thought that one up.

p. 166 — There’s no need to exaggerate. That’s not Colometa’s style. If people looked gaunt and unclean, their clothes in tatters she would simply say they looked terrible. The word gaunt doesn’t belong in Colometa’s lexicon. Out!!!

p. 174 — Why put the leg he was missing? Why would you crack such a bad joke? Colometa is objective in all her descriptions. And much more poetic than you might think.

p. 180 — Sales, my dear friend, this just won’t do. Colometa isn’t recounting events. That’s not the novel’s style. When you see the shops “thinking,” or “listening,” it’s because she can’t go inside and shop there. It makes no difference whether there were lots of them or few, or whether they were just starting to open or just starting to close. Goddamned terrible. The character is what matters. If you can’t comprehend something so obvious, well….

p. 182 — It’s not our problem whether any of these things would ever happen again. Out! Let Colometa get on with her story. She’s on the verge of suicide, my dear Mr. Sales, and she will take account of what she sees without bitterness.

p. 190 — Get rid of this moronic here we have and this folksy wished a good morning. You don’t know the meaning of the word style. You haven’t the smallest idea.

p. 191 — Abandonment is too literary for Colometa. Abandon.

p. 194 — Clinkety-clink—and not clinkety-clank. Haven’t you ever heard the sound that glass beads on a lampshade make when they bump together? Take a listen when you get a chance.

Clinkety-clank is just moronic.

p. 195 — I say could kill the rat and its offspring. To say that he killed them all with a rat trap is a cruel and awful joke.

p. 196 — And I felt a lump in my throat. Let her throat be, that’s not her wording. Instead of throat, perhaps we ought to have specified that Colometa felt the lump in her glottis. But I imagine this throat business was the typesetter, putting on airs.

p. 208 — Adding from prison and the letter-writing is goddamned pointless. But it’s the only interjection that hits the mark. What I mean is that it doesn’t spoil anything, and seems to be the work of a true pen. Congrats, it was about time.

p. 212 — I’m seeing feverish angst. It simply has to be anguishing fever. If not, it comes across as one of those elegant and wicked turns of phrase out of Carles Soldevila, who might say, the feverish angst of eighteen. Amen. And praise be the stylists. But this was the typesetter.

p. 213 — The typesetter has been out drinking with the doves. Nix the extra!

p. 216 — Why shaken up when shook up is so much simpler? But I’ll let it be because I’m simply exhausted.

p. 218 — I didn’t know where he’d died or if they’d buried him who knows where…what’s the point of this gobbledygook? Out! It was fine the way the writer wrote it. I should know.

p. 224 — The moving stars that adorn the night is naïve. The moving stars, adornment of the night is not naïve, and Colometa is naïve. Or haven’t you noticed?

p. 224 — Or folds and unfolds and colors the flowers. Why colors and discolors? Writing this, I thought about that wonderful Villon ballad, when the old woman says to the mother of God: A woman I am, a poor and ancient one / And ignorant, I never learned to read / At the church where I’m parishioner, I see / Paradise painted, where there are harps and lutes, / And also Hell, wherein the damned are boiled. / One gives me fear, the other joy and gladness…etc., etc.*—I wanted that wonderful innocence. That’s what I mean. Don’t you wreak havoc on what is fine as it is.

It’s all so hopeless, Sales. There’s just no way to make this work. As much as I like color as a verb, what little common sense, Mother of God….

p. 226 — You think the boy is old enough to become a soldier and that he’s serious and that the things he says are funny, but he doesn’t say them to be funny.

p. 227 — Brooding is a word that can apply just as well to a person of the masculine sex. Pondering is just silly. Again with the cruel jokes.

p. 228 — I will not accept movies, only cinema.

p. 236 — Walls and walls. That’s okay.

p. 238 — With all kinds of things pulsing up from my heart to my head. It makes no poetic sense whatsoever to call them out.

p. 238 — What you’ve done to the part with the tram is one hundred percent unacceptable. It ruins all the emotional intensity these pages have to offer. I don’t say it to annoy you, or even out of authorial arrogance. But if you can’t see that it’s a mess, well…. In any case, I made a note of it and even gave you a different adjective for yellow.

p. 239 —In big, deep letters, as you find in the newspaper, not like you find in the newspaper. Also, it’s too close to another like.


Well, thanks.

I can’t remember which page it was that I told you I agree with eliminating the “have got’s.”

Don’t forget about the address!!! To Joan Prat.


*Sargent-Bauer, Barbara N., translator. François Villon: Complete Poems. Toronto, Toronto University Press, 1994.


Barcelona, 12 March 1962

Mrs. Mercè Rodoreda


My dear friend,

I’m not in the least accustomed to receiving letters like yours, and I’m at a loss. Wavering on the right approach to cases such as these, I first thought to send the letter back, so that you might see for yourself whether such things are best put down in writing; but then it occurred to me that anyone capable of writing letters so…unfriendly, must not be capable of detecting anything unusual in the recipient returning them, because if she were, she wouldn’t have written them in the first place.

I’m handing yours over to my wife, for her graphology collection, as I only imagine they make for curious specimens indeed. I don’t understand them one bit.

The comments, and especially the diatribes, you may keep to yourself. If I sent you the proofs, it was so that you might make whatever edits you wished. All you had to do was mark the edits, and return the proofs. How utterly pointless it was to say all that you said. I can only conclude you were in a state of hysteria, and hadn’t any idea what you were writing.

Let’s leave it here and talk of something else. I asked the bank if it was possible to do what you asked, and send you a check. They told me to do nothing of the sort, since sending a check abroad is illegal. Which is what I’ve always understood. Do let me know, then, if any other methods occurs to you for collecting the 5,000 pesetas that the Club still owes you. Now that Benguerel has returned, following his absence of nearly a year and a half, perhaps it would simplest to entrust the task to him. I’ll let you know soon.

Believe me that if this letter of yours had caught me by surprise, the shock has now worn off, considering the delirious state in which it was certainly written. I’m also reminded of Don Calomarde’s celebrated quip: a lady’s hands cannot offend.

And more to the point, the novel is what matters. How good it is that we might forgive so much of the author with so weak an understanding of others’ difficulties.

Affectionately yours,


All in all, I much prefer your temper be quick, and you send back the proofs as soon as possible, and certainly not the reverse. The back and forth, which does concern me, shouldn’t take more than six days exactly. And then we’ll proceed to the print run at once.


Geneva, 11 June 1962


Sales, my friend,

Maybe Doves will arrive on the Day of Final Judgment, announced by all the trumpets of the sky. Just maybe.

Affectionately yours,

Mercè Rodoreda

P.S. Well, Doves has just arrived, alongside two contraband cigars.


p. 97. Line 32. It says linger when it should say finger.

p. 152. Sixth line of the second paragraph. Boyfriend is redundant. It’s already clear what I mean by: alone with a boy, trying on ladies’ evening gowns for the excitement, and stealing them in the end. We can assume that the person she means to excite (Enriqueta’s word) is the boy with whom she’s all alone.

p. 240. Line 7. The word old is missing from the man was asking me. Because otherwise, it doesn’t make any sense later on: and the old man and the old woman go, etc.

p. 221. Line 7. I said I would speak to Rita, but that my daughter is headstrong. You’ve added like her mother to headstrong. So it reads as if Rita is just like her mother, when that isn’t true. By saying that her daughter is headstrong, Colometa isn’t insinuating anything to Viçenc. Rather, she simply means that Rita is headstrong, as if to say that she has her own special ticks. Not that she has somebody else’s ticks; just hers. Rita has her own ticks. They belong to her. Get it? Or have I not made myself clear?

p. 124. Here we encounter a different problem. Line 4, second paragraph. I had: and I heard a shout. I heard a shout and I turned and the person shouting to me…. Now it reads: and somebody shouted to me. Somebody shouted to me and I turned, etc. When I was writing this I thought hard about whether I ought to put: and a person shouted to me…. But it sounds less natural in this formulation. So I put heard a shout. If we imagine that the shout is coming from one direction, and she’s facing the opposite direction, she won’t know who it is that is shouting to her. I’d prefer not to leave it vague, and yet, if I were speaking naturally, I would say: I was going about my own business, when I heard a shout, and it turned out to be a friend I hadn’t seen in forever…. Writing somebody shouted to me doesn’t sound right (even if it is literally correct, because the shout has to come from somebody), but the recipient of the shout hears only the shouting, not the person doing the shouting. Moreover, Colometa is feeling overwhelmed, and she’s a bit absentminded, too.

Apart from all that, which is hardly nothing, the mistakes are now largely cleaned up, and the layout looks wonderful. It’s one of the nicest books in the collection. And those big margins hanging over the start of each chapter—simply formidable.


Joan Sales and Mercè Rodoreda

Joan Sales (1912-1983) and Mercè Rodoreda (1908-1983) are among the most celebrated writers in contemporary Catalan letters. In 1959, Sales co-founded Club Editor, but is perhaps now best remembered for his canonical novel Uncertain Glory. Born in Barcelona, Mercè Rodoreda lived much of her life in exile in France and Switzerland. She is the author of In Diamond Square, which is widely regarded as one of the most important Catalan novels of all time.

Scott Shanahan

Scott Shanahan is a translator of Catalan, Spanish, and Galician. He received his MFA from Columbia University, where he studied literary translation and creative writing. In 2016, he was invited to participate in the American Literary Translators Association’s Emerging Translators Mentorship Program. His translations have appeared in A Public Space, Words Without Borders, and Columbia’s Word for Word anthology. He lives and teaches in Spain.

Copyright (c) Maria Bohigas Sales, 2008. English translation copyright (c) Scott Shanahan, 2018.