See How Much I Love You

by Luis Leante, Translated from Spanish by Martin Schifino

Published by Marion Boyars, September 2009


The majority of See How Much I Love You is set against the background of the little known political and human tragedy of the Western Sahara: In 1975, immediately after Spain pulled out of its last remaining colony in Africa the area was invaded by the Moroccan army – anxious to secure control of the mineral wealth of the area. About half the local Sahrwari (the ethnic group that traditionally lives in the Western Sahara) population fled into the desert. Today, 33 years later, they still live in semi-permanent refugee camps waiting to return home. Although the situation of the exiles is bad, there is much evidence to suggest that the plight of the Sahrwari people who live under Moroccan occupation is even worse. Discrimination, repression and torture are rife and it is forbidden even to acknowledge the existence of Western Sahara.
In 1992 a UN brokered ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario (the Sahrwari political group) pending a referendum on self-determination amongst the inhabitants of the Western Sahara. Thanks to Moroccan prevarication this still has not been held. See How I Much Love You is set both during the events that began this situation in 1975 and in contemporary times, showing the situation today. It has a number of strong Sahrwari characters – especially women – and not only raises awareness of a tragic political situation but also gives a voice to a culture that has been repressed and is in danger of being forgotten.

See How Much I Love You is a love story set in the Western Sahara. After Montse and Santiago share a brief teenage love affair in Barcelona in the early seventies, Santiago is sent on military service to the Western Sahara. Santiago becomes one of the few Spanish soldiers to befriend the local Sahrwari population. He is tricked, however, by members of the local resistance into smuggling arms out of his military camp and arrested by the Spanish authorities. After his escape he throws in his lot with the Sahrwari in spite of their betrayal. When news of the Moroccan invasion arrives, Santiago must help evacuate a Sahrwari family and an epic journey across the desert ensues. In the present day, Montse, now a doctor in Barcelona, sees a photo of Santiago carried by one of her patients and decides to try to find him in the refugee camps of the Western Sahara. 

Luis Leante is a professor of classics at the University of Murcia. He has written plays, poetry, essays, film scripts and over a dozen novels, winning numerous literary awards. Mira Si Yo Te Querré was inspired by a 2005 humanitarian trip to the Western Sahara. In 2007 it won the Alfaguara prize for fiction.

Martin Schifino was born in Buenos Aires. He has a degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Buenos Aires and Medieval English Literature from King’s College London. He is a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement and various different Spanish and Latin American publications. He has translated four books previously from the Spanish: This Breathing World, by José Luis de Juan (Arcadia, London, 2007), Blood of The Angels, by Eugenio Fuentes (Arcadia, 2007), Water-Blue Eyes, by Domingo Villar (Arcadia, 2008), and The Pianist’s Hands, also by Eugenio Fuentes (Arcadia 2008).


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