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Private Life

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Private Life holds up a mirror to the moral corruption in the interstices of the Barcelona high society Sagarra was born into. Boudoirs of demimonde tramps, card games dilapidating the fortunes of milquetoast aristocrats - and how they scheme to conceal them - fading manors of selfish scions, and back rooms provided by social-climbing seamstresses are portrayed in vivid, sordid, and literary detail. 
The novel, practically a roman-à-clef for its contemporaries, was a scandal in 1932. The 1960's edition was bowdlerized by Franco's censors. Part Lampedusa, part Genet, is an essential piece of 20th-century European literature.

"[A] satirical, multigenerational saga about the intricate relationship between Barcelona's fading aristocracy and the city's sordid demimonde... Expect murder, revenge, and fallings in and out of love ... The novel comes most alive when the author digresses from his plot: in his characters' back stories, his ruminations on Spain's socioeconomics, his cleverly vicious bons mots and descriptions ... and in some surprisingly graphic sex... In this casual, colloquial translation, Barcelona between the wars is full of tawdry vitality, much like the novel itself."  Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"Sagarra’s evocation of the crumbling upperclass Barcelonan milieu is intricate and panoramic, and the reader views the plot in perspective, as a single sequence of occurrences among many others in this social history masquerading as a novel... this book makes a much-needed contribution to contemporary letters." — Rain Taxi Review of Books

"One might compare Sagarra’s Private Life to Hemingway, Camus, Flaubert, or Proust, whose wealthy, bourgeois, narcissistic characters illustrate moral ineptitude. Newman’s choices in language for this translation indeed direct the English-speaking literary world to view the upper classes of the early twentieth century as the character Frederic is described, possessing 'all his banality and moral inconsistency.' Sagarra’s novel deserves a position in the literary canon of twentieth-century Europe, and Newman’s new translation will certainly boost its chances." — World Literature Today 

"Sagarra achieves a striking contrast between this rich prose and his sordid content. Mary Ann Newman has translated a difficult book with finesse and imagination...  Private Life bubbles over with insight and malice. Some time after its publication, Sagarra said wickedly, ‘Compared with reality, it’s just a mild romantic novel.’ It is not a kindly book, but a flawed classic with wonderful energy and memorable characters… and did that parasite class deserve kindness?" — The Literary Review (UK)

"Sagarra plays with the reader, never going where he seems to be heading, presenting a huge, sprawling patchwork fitted together into a mosaic of the end of the aristocratic age. In lusciously exact language, Sagarra painstakingly charts the misunderstandings and crossed signals of privileged human beings greedily, selfishly determined to be happy." — Nick DiMartino, University Book Store, in Shelf Awareness

A "graphic and viciously funny Catalan social satire... This is a risqué novel, sustained by humor and a sleazy elegance, all steeped in ironies... [A] human comedy in the style of Balzac... far racier than Dickens, although Sagarra certainly has the Victorian’s flair for creating characters... a sprawling soap opera writ large [that] has a contemporary feel." — The Irish Times

"[F]unny and ridiculous, de Sagarra paints a meticulous portrait of the dawn of modernity in Catalonia." — Publishers Weekly

"A rich tapestry... What really makes Private Life a compelling read are Sagarra’s vivid details of this crumbling society and his keen observations about it... thanks to Mary Ann Newman and her sparkling translation, Sagarra’s masterpiece is finally available in English." — Open Letter, Three Percent 

SERIESNarrativas hispánicas


  • USA (Archipelago)
  • The Netherlands (Menken, Kasander & Wigman)
  • France (Christian Bourgois)
  • Italy (Crocetti)
Josep Maria de Sagarra

Josep Maria de Sagarra

Josep Maria de Sagarra (1894-1961) -- Catalan Balzac, journalist, theater critic, translator, poet, and novelist -- was a force of nature who produced volumes of poetry, drama, essays, and three major novels, which have made him one of the most popular and loved voices of Catalan literature. After winning his first poetry prize in the Juegos Florales, he decided to devote his life to literature. His translated works include Dante's Divine Comedy and plays by Shakepespeare, Molière, and Gogol. He was a member of the Institute of Catalan Studies, the Academy of Letters, the General Council of Authors of Spain, and the council of the Grand Cross of the Civil Order of Alfonso X the Wise.