The tale of a high-spirited, ambitious young woman or man breaking free from stifling provincial constraints to pursue a life of independence is a staple of the novel. In Tristana the great Spanish novelist Benito Pe´rez Galdo´s disconcertingly reverses the formula. His beautiful and brilliant and very winning heroine breaks free from a perverse and imprisoning relationship to a womanizing older man, supposed by all to be her father. But after a terrible stroke of misfortune, she retreats-either out of timidity or, perhaps, simply because confinement has its own seductive power.
Tristana, here in an exceptionally fine and fluent new English rendering by Margaret Jull Costa, is an unequaled exploration of the tragedy of human desire.