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Terre de sang et de sueur (La Machine, #1)…
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Terre de sang et de sueur (La Machine, #1) (edició 2021)

de Katia Lanero Zamora

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Títol:Terre de sang et de sueur (La Machine, #1)
Autors:Katia Lanero Zamora
Informació:Éditions ActuSF, Paperback
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca, Read
Etiquetes:belgisch, fantastic, français, own, review-copies, reviewed

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La Machine (La Machine, #1) de Katia Lanero Zamora

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Three years after 'Les Ombres d'Esver' (2018, my review), the Belgian Katia Lanero Zamora return with a new novel: 'Terre de sang et de sueur' (rough translation: Land of blood and sweat), part one of two. Yes, 'La Machine' will be a diptych.

As Mrs Lanero Zamora herself explains in these two documents - Facebook interaction and a video interview for a local TV-station (00:53-06:23) - it is not a fantasy story, but an allegory based on how her grandparents experienced the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, which caused them to flee to Belgium.

It's a story she's been working on for many years. The results are now coming to fruition in the first of two books. As it's not fantasy, why is it published by an editor whose speciality is SFFF? Maybe precisely because it's not a real account of what and how it happened, but rather the allegoric aspect of the story. The goal was, if I'm not mistaken, not exactly to give account of how her grandparents experienced and lived through the tragic events, also having to rebuild their lives up north, in a totally different country and culture, despite there being a Spanish community already established.

As Mrs Lanero Zamora explained in the TV-interview, she's not a historian and for her stories, she needs something existent as a starting point for the story that revolves more around family ties than the political events that serve as context. In that respect and in the form of an allegory, the story will be timeless.


Allegory: a story, play, poem, picture, or other work in which the characters and events represent particular qualities or ideas that relate to morals, religion, or politics (Source: Cambridge Dictionary)


Spanish Civil War (1936-1939): The Spanish Civil War was a civil war in Spain fought from 1936 to 1939. Republicans loyal to the left-leaning Popular Front government of the Second Spanish Republic, in alliance with anarchists, of the communist and syndicalist variety, fought against a revolution by the Nationalists, an alliance of Falangists, monarchists, conservatives and traditionalists, led by a military group among whom General Francisco Franco soon achieved a preponderant role. (Source: Wikipedia)


The story here does not take place in Spain, but in Panîm, an imaginary country; the characters too are invented. We follow the family Cabayol, who were farmers once, but when the king honoured grandfather Cabayol for his military contributions, the family's status improved greatly, like that of other people in the same or similar situation. Thus, several families became the new rich people, with all the political and economic privileges that come with the status.

In this first book, 'Terre de sang et de sueur', Panîm is going through political upheaval, as the king has fled (It is said, however, that he has fled without abdicating, thus is still in power, and plans a return), the monarchy overthrown and the republic installed in its place by the military. Naturally and obviously, this chaos lets the contrast between rich and poor come out even more. The poor, known as the Ongles sales (Dirty nails), work the fields and have the lower paid occupations, hence also their nicknames. They are paid very low wages, have no social rights (there are also no trade[s] unions to defend them, at least not in this story), and can thus be fired at any time. The strict work regime is supervised by guards, who will not hesitate to put the workers in their place when any of them tries to rebel or stand up for him/herself.

There is not only a contrast between rich and poor, but also between men and women. Women don't have much to say, are responsible for the household, giving birth to and raising children, and so on. The rich families have servants to fulfil those tasks (cooking, washing, bringing up the children, ...), like in the Cabayol family.

The focus lies on the brothers Vian and Andrès: Vian being introverted and quite, if not very, loyal to his family and his country; Andrès being extraverted with a rebel character. Their mother passed away when they were still kids, leaving the upbringing mostly to his father's new partner, who treated Vian and Andrès as if they were her own children. As their grandfather was a pure-bred soldier, their father was - if you read between the lines - brought up in a harsh way. Each time Andrès and Vian committed mischief, they (father and grandfather) would issue stern warnings.

During their youth, both brothers have made acquaintances and friends with some of the "Dirty nails", like Danielo (who works at a bakery) and Lea, whose parents passed away, left her little brothers and sisters in her care. So she has to work hard and a lot to make ends meet. To make matters interesting, she's Andrès's girlfriend, yet does not want to depend on him. As mentioned before, with Andrès being the rebel one, he will realise what a good life he's and his family are leading, compared to his friends. Whilst attending a meeting of the political movement 'La Machine', Andrès realises something has to change to tip the scales in a more balanced direction. He promises to do anything to help these people create their view of the world, to obtain what they want and deserve. (They want their own pieces of land, to work them themselves, since the landowners own too much land anyway. In a radical move, he will forsake his father, his name [the name Cabayol is a grand name, one that opens many doors when one wants to ascend the hierarchical ladder in society], his way of life, and go live like a poor man. The break-up will be profound and even life-threatening. Even for his newborn son, although it remains uncertain if Andrès is the father. At least, I didn't read anything confirming this or I must have overlooked it.)

Vian, however, is always reluctant to follow his brother, as nothing ever good comes of it. Not when they were young, not when they are older. Furthermore, Vian also has a different sexual orientation, which is problematic in the real world, not to say the army. Yes, Vian will join the army to defend the nation against the enemy. Yes, Vian will find happiness in the army, strangely enough, but will at some point see through the mist and realise why the army needed new recruits and who that enemy really is. Part of Vian's training reminded me Ender's training in Orson Scott Card's 'Ender's Game'. Maybe that's just a coincidence. How this realisation will affect his relationship with his father, for example, remains to be seen in book two.

And so, both brothers live two different lives, yet still love one another, despite their personal differences on various levels. They bought fight what they hold dear and are on opposite sides of the fence.


The nut on the cover, combined with the red background, does not only represent 'La Machine' - as nuts are an important element in machinery, any machinery -, it is a symbolic representation of the struggles in a country undergoing profound social and political changes. (Another aspect of Andrès's radical move: he got himself an unfinished tattoo of such a nut, symbol of the movement, to show his determination and dedication.)


'Terre de sang et de sueur' is a book that is chock-full of contrasts: rich vs poor, introverted vs extraverted, one brother vs the other, political opposites, men vs women, rights vs (almost) no rights, land vs no land, gay vs straight, etc.

The story focuses on the characters, their emotions, their lives, not so much on the political side of things. However, the context is of vital importance to explain how people acted under the new circumstances and why they acted so. Though only one family (Cabayol) is the centre of attention, we get to follow both Vian and Andrès as they try to find their way in life, under harsh conditions.

While being an allegory, this kind of story-telling helps to paint a picture of how savage and cruel man can be for his compatriots and how justice is a thousands of years old concept that constantly is put under pressure, just like the International Declaration of Human Rights, anywhere in the world. Be that story based on the Spanish Civil War or any other (kind of) war.

Mrs Lanero Zamora wrote (another) touching (e.g. the flashbacks), fictional account of the brutal and dramatic consequences of political chaos, on social and mainly familial levels. Fictional, yet very descriptive, graphic and vivid. It's a story that is still relevant today, when one considers what the world has been going through the past decade (financial crisis, refugee crisis, corona crisis, the rise of far-right political parties, ...).

And let's not even mention the giant cliffhanger of an ending!

One remark, though: No (French) translations for the Spanish vocabulary: despedida, hoy, compadres, tio, duen/dueño, ... Yes, these days, there are various dictionaries (on- and offline), but when adding foreign words, it is best to add the (contextually correct) translation at the bottom of the respective pages, as footnotes.


I was sent this book by Éditions ActuSF for review. Many thanks to them for the trust. ( )
  TechThing | May 2, 2021 |
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