‘Biztresa’ means nothing, not in any language. It is just a collection of letters, but anyone who wants can find meaning in it. In Landen (Landing) by Laia Fàbregas, it is a metaphor for art, found hidden in a small chest that plays a central role. When the man to whom the chest belongs dies during a flight from Spain to The Netherlands, the woman who’d been placed in the seat beside him takes it with her.
Gradually, as the two protagonists take turns telling a chapter and the chapters jump backwards and forwards in time, the reader grows familiar with both their perspectives and finds out how much the lives of these two strangers were intertwined.
Fàbregas reveals their histories ingeniously. He, a widower, migrant and former worker at the Philips lightbulb factory, is travelling to meet his son and grandchild. She is a young woman, working for the Tax Office, much affected by the loss of her parents, who died in a car accident long ago, from which she was saved. She is still looking for the person who rescued her, albeit quite haphazardly. Yet, she manages to achieve an astonishing result, demonstrating how thought-through this tale is, how evocative it is – and how the inventive Fàbregas has dared to trust her reader’s insights. It is like being in a maze, having to find the way out yourself. But in reality Fàbregas has left discreet clues along the way, and you discover that she has been ahead of you all along. The first draft may have included more detail, but it was excised, making us think ourselves. This is what Landen shows us most of all – apart from beautiful, substantive ideas about art and identity – how the rock reveals itself in the pebble.