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Review of Napalm in the Heart by Pol Guasch

Translated from the original Catalan, this is a debut for those who enjoy strange fiction. Set in a barren and desolate landscape where dead bodies lie unburied and militarised thugs patrol the area, an unnamed young man clings to survival living with his mother who is traumatised from working at the ominous factory. He tallies the passing days as he waits for an opportunity to escape with his lover, Boris. After an act of brutal but desperate violence, armed men are coming and so now is their chance to flee. On the run through the desert, they confront what it means to survive in a world where violence seems to be the new language. Are they running in circles, doomed to become what they’ve escaped? 

The story is told through images and a unique style of prose that definitely takes time to settle into. But this is a deliberately uncomfortable read with moments of gross bodily horror, descriptions of violence and decay that leave you sickened yet unable to tear yourself away from the page. The prose is as sparse as the environment and yet manages to say so much about war, natural disaster, totalitarianism, queerness and manhood that I can see this becoming a stand-out in apocalypse fiction. I will certainly be thinking about it for a long time to come.

Review by Abi.

Napalm in the Heart was published on 04/07/24 by Faber.




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