[Publicado en el Times Literary Supplement de 20 de noviembre de 2020: https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/todo-esto-existe-inigo-redondo-review-david-david-jimenez-torres/ ]
Iñigo Redondo’s first novel impresses on various levels. Set in 1980s Ukraine, Todo esto existe (All This Exists) centres on the relationship between a recently divorced schoolmaster and one of his pupils – a teenage girl suffering domestic abuse. Having run away from home she turns to her teacher for help, eventually (and secretly) moving into his flat. While she stays much longer than expected, this is not a straightforward story of a teacher–student liaison. The novel is much more interested in questions of loss and connection, and the limits placed on our knowledge both of the world and of ourselves. This is highlighted by the pair’s quest for secrecy – even from each other – and the way in which their ill- considered actions shape their lives. The reader is also forced to grapple with some unsettling questions, particularly regarding the responsibility of adults towards traumatized minors. All of this is told in a style that mixes kitchen-sink dialogue with detailed descriptions of the characters’ inner turmoil.
The question of why a young Spanish author would choose communist Ukraine as a setting hangs over most of the story. The novel’s interest in timeless interpersonal dynamics makes this former Soviet Republic feel at times like the Italy or Greece of Golden Age plays: a faraway land in which to set dramatic plots. Yet this impression is dispelled with a cleverly constructed plot twist that propels the story in a wholly new direction and brings another theme to the fore: the relationship between everyday experience and grand historical events. The latter are heard as a faraway din throughout the novel until they unexpectedly roar into the protagonists’ lives, threatening to destroy everything in their wake. Redondo is skilful in laying the groundwork for this narrative pivot, and ruthless in exposing the human suffering behind apparently distant incidents. The plot eventually lends itself to being read as a metaphor for the evolution of the Eastern bloc, with its complex dynamics of isolation, self-sufficiency, fantasizing about what might lie beyond certain frontiers, and traumatic liberation.