A very strong recommendation for The Boy Who Stole Attila’s Horse by Iván Repila (translated by Sophie Hughes). This is Repila’s first book in English and the second that he has published. It makes me very curious to read his first book, as well as anything he happens to publish in the future. Repila is from Spain and was born in 1978.
John Self has ably summed up the book’s conceit and pointed out a number of its features, so I’ll point interested readers in that direction.
It’s about two boys stuck at the bottom of a well. Like The Woman in the Dunes, another book about people trapped in a hole, it has a strong allegorical feel to it, but it’s not simple to reduce this book to a message or a point. There are a few sentences scattered throughout the might lead a reader in one direction or another, but for the most part Repila simply concerns himself with elaborating the relationship between the two boys, the increasing madness of the smaller one, and the extraordinary mental and physical depredations that their plight subjects them to.
Repila has written a very disturbing book that one feels physically as one reads it. It is a short book, but one with a very powerful impact and that would support multiple readings. It’s quite impressive, and, as I mentioned before, it makes me wonder what might come next out of this person’s mind.
I should also mention Sophie Hughes’s translation, which is wonderful. I have not had a chance to read the Spanish, but I have no doubt in her skill here. The book reads beautifully in English.