Thursday 31 August 2023

Hidden Hand - Manuel Alfonseca

Hidden Hand
Manuel Alfonseca
ISBN ???

Hidden Hand - Manuel Alfonseca

This is the twentieth volume I have read from the pen of Manuel Alfonseca since early 2017. His works were recommended to me by a friend on Goodreads. The English edition is not currently available, the Spanish edition was first published by Alfaguara in 1991 and was reprinted by Oxford University Press in 2012. It is a pity OUP did not bring out the English edition as well. The author is very active on Goodreads both in the Catholic Book Club and interacting with readers of his works. I have said in previous reviews that there is a certain sense of the works of Jose Saramango and Gabriel García Márquez in Alfonseca’s writings. And this one reminds me most of Love in the Time of Cholera by Marquez. Alfonseca does his own translation work, and there is a newer translation of this volume that will hopefully be published someday soon. 

The descriptions of this volume states:

“The search for the loved one is unleashed, for a 17th century knight, from a mysterious apparition in an old castle in ruins. The desire to find an answer and the desire to improve will lead the main character to travel the world on a journey that transcends the geographical and becomes personal.”

About the author we are informed that:

“Manuel Alfonseca (Madrid, 1946) is a writer and professor in a Spanish university (Autónoma de Madrid) where he was director of the Escuela Politécnica Superior (2001-2004). He worked 22 years in IBM. He has published over 200 scientific articles and many papers and posts on popular science, in Spanish and English. He is the author of over 50 books on computer science, popular science, historic novel, science-fiction and young adult literature, published in Spanish, English, French and other languages. He was awarded the Lazarillo Award (1988) and the La Brújula Award (2012). He is the son of the painter and sculptor Manuel Alfonseca (Santana).”

The chapters in this work are:

The Ruins 
My Departure 
Lessons In Military Tactics 
In Action 
Because Of A Nail 
One Year Of Study 
A Midsummer Night’s Dream 
Towards The End Of The World 
The Indian Village 
A Dilemma 
Forest, Mountain, And River 
The End Of The Way

This story is like a classic fairy tale, written as an epic adventure, set as historical fiction. And Alfonseca pulls off that mash up masterfully. It was very hard to put down. And I can freely admit I stayed up way to late on a work night to finish it. 

Our quester is one Emiliano Ruiz and his life is set on this path after a strange occurrence in ruins near his home. Or I should say series of occurrences. It all began with:

“The castle had risen, several centuries ago, on a small hill that gave it a slight natural protection. Today the ruins were scattered over a much wider field, for time and the elements had spread the stones, torn by the war from their place. No doubt, when the castle was inhabited, the forest stopped a hundred paces from its walls, but today the trees and the weeds had regained the lost ground and invaded even the courtyard, which had witnessed the proud parades of the troops of a feudal lord whose name was lost in oblivion.

Only one of the sections of the rampart, the one at the west, remained partly upright. At the top, sharp against the blue, there were two or three battlements, remainders of the defenses of the castle. That was the point where I used to go during my visits. To get there, I had to climb the crumbling walls, but the unconsciousness of my few years ignored the danger. Luckily, nothing ever happened to me.

That day I climbed up to the battlements, preparing myself to play, as usually, at knights errant or moors and Christians, I do not remember what. In any case, I am certain that there was no trace in my thoughts of anything mysterious or beyond the reach of usual experience. Nothing had prepared me for what was going to happen: as soon as I reached the top of the wall, I looked inside the castle and saw her.

It was a girl about my age. She was looking up, straight into my eyes, with an angelic face that captivated me. She stood in what had been the courtyard, in so perfect immobility that, at first, she looked more like a statue than a human being, but one look at those eyes was enough to convince me that she was alive. Her hair, halfway down her back, was black as night. I remember that later, when I recalled the scene, I was surprised that not even one of the strands of her hair was moving with the winter breeze which blew from the forest, but at that time I just could stare at her. It’s funny, I never thought of saying something, even a syllable. Perhaps it was not necessary. A beam of understanding seemed to flow from her eyes to mine: a much more intense and intimate experience than can be expressed in words.”
I hope that sample grabs your interest. This was an amazing read. I wish it were in print so I could share it with friends and family. Once it is back in print I encourage you to pick it up and give it a read. And if you read Spanish maybe give the original version a try. Oh and I loved when we encountered the title of the book, in its pages. I am certain it will entertain.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Manuel Alfonseca in English:
Jacob's Ladder
The Ruby of the Ganges
The Last Dinosaur
Ennia in Faerie
The Heirloom of King Scorpion
Beyond the Black Hole
The Water of Life

The Sleuths of the Spanish Transition Series:
Quetzalcoatl's Zahir

The Mystery of the Haunted House
The Mystery of the Sapphire Bracelet
The Mystery of the Honeymoon
The Mystery of the Egyptian Vulture Country House

Chronicles of the Magic Jigsaw Puzzle Series:
The Journey of Tivo the Dauntless
The Mystery of the Black Lake
The Silver Swan
The Secret of the Ice Field
The Lost Continent

The Chronicles of the Aeolian Family Series:

Human Cultures & Evolution
World Population: Past, Present, & Future
The Fifth Level of Evolution

Hidden Hand - Manuel Alfonseca

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