What first drew me to Cambio de sentido was that it touched on my own experience—I happened to be living in Madrid when the disastrous 2002 Prestige oil spill (the event at the novel’s center) happened off the coast of Spain. Years later, when I read Mar Gómez Glez’s 2010 novel, it seemed eerily timely, as I had just returned from a trip to New Orleans where I saw firsthand the outrage and sadness in the wake of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster. This unfortunate synergy—and evidence that we do not learn from the mistakes of the past—led me to believe that not only might the novel find an American readership, it needed to, as these environmental catastrophes tend to fade from public memory as soon as they disappear from the headlines. Cambio de sentido refuses to allow this memory—and other perhaps darker ones—to fade for its characters or for the reader.

But the novel serves as much more than a commentary on environmental disasters; it also tackles the equally devastating consequences of personal tragedy and loss. The reader embarks upon two journeys: in the first, we drive with protagonist and narrator Pablo from Spain to France as he pursues his girlfriend Teba, who is on the run with an ecological activist accused of a violent crime; in the second, we follow the tangled pathways of Pablo’s erratic memories, recounted to his therapist through the bars of a jail cell. In the course of the narration we are challenged to fill in the gaps of Pablo’s forgotten past and piece together the details of a tragic homicide. The novel is not only a reflection on memory, loss, and the interconnected nature of (human, animal, and marine) lives, it is also a thoroughly compelling and masterfully written literary thriller, which keeps us reading anxiously until its surprising conclusion.

Despite Cambio de sentido’s grounding in a particular moment in Spain’s recent history, the issues it explores are far more broadly applicable. Issues of personal responsibility, political accountability, love, and loss are not only translatable but vital; it is for this reason that I have undertaken its translation for an American audience, which I sincerely hope it will find with the help of the PEN Translation Fund grand that the project has been so lucky to receive. Lucky, indeed, but the novel is more than deserving; as the Argentine novelist Sylvia Molloy put it in her presentation of the book last year at McNally Jackson Books, “In Cambio de sentido there is, above all, spectacle; visions of a disaster that is at the same time ecological and human. Once the book is closed we do not easily forget the disturbing, shocking, and strangely beautiful images that we have just seen. Or, better put, that we have just read: because in this unforgettable book by Mar Gómez Glez, there is, above all, writing.” I hope to do this writing justice in my work as translator.