Gris is forty years old, he recently lost his father, he got divorced and, on top of that, he is left without a job. What from here had to be a trip to Catalonia to learn about her family origins is transformed when the discovery of her relatives leads her to search for a lost family treasure. With this premise, Sílvia Soler (Figueres, 1961) builds dear gray (Univers, in Spanish published by Catedral), which investigates the search for an identity based on family and roots, but also on different types of love.
The novel has three shots, the adventures of Gris, the emails he sends to his sister Adriana, jealous of his departure, and a family frieze of the different love relationships of the extended family: starting with his maternal and paternal grandparents, he explains his stories, with a Catalan grandmother who was integrated into Mexican culture by the hand of a very dominant husband –and five daughters, the Alzuera sisters, with their respective subplots– and a grandfather who was also Catalan who died longing for his land and language and she had maintained some customs, although she raised her son in Spanish: “It seems to Adriana that by coming here, Gris is giving up her family and her country to have another. No, identity is flexible and multiple and elastic, ”explains the writer, and she asks herself“ where are you really from, where did you grow up, where were you born or where do you have roots? All my family is from Figueres, and I was born there, but I have never lived and I have been in Badalona for 30 years. And it is ridiculous, speaking of exile, but the feeling of not knowing where I am from, the issue of being uprooted, has always obsessed me and I wanted to reflect on it”.
The protagonist arrives in Figueres following from Puebla, Mexico, the trail of her grandfather, and discovers a new world
In the end, he says, “the only conclusion is that my roots are spread out and the place is up to you.” And you do what you can: “Many Catalans who went to Mexico switched to Spanish instead of keeping Catalan. It could be seen as a resignation, but for me it is a clear intention to integrate into society and that the children are already from there, although often there is also longing”. In fact, he points out, “the family is my subject, but here it is almost the excuse to be able to talk about uprooting and exile.” And of love, because “instead of explaining the family from any other point of view, I make a sample of all loving relationships, of all the ways of loving, valid and not so valid, it is like a thread that runs through the whole history”.
Impregnated with Dalí’s landscapes, the novel also takes advantage of a family myth that has to do with the painter –his parents were friends of Soler’s grandparents– and that moves the threads of the narrative until the end. Now, the writer assures that the seed of the book was simply the name: “I met a girl named Gris, and she seemed to me a very pretty name.” But was she Mexican? “No, she is Argentine and she lives in Badalona.”