Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.
- Matthew, 5:13
The phrase "salt of the earth" is used in so many ways, and a quick web search yields little consensus. I personally use it to mean "a decent, dependable, unpretentious person," and it is in this sense that the narrator, nicknamed Conxa, of the novella Pedra de tartera (2008; translated into English as Stone in a Landslide) by the Catalan author, Maria Barbal (b. 1949), is the salt of the earth.
With quick, calm strokes Barbal sketches the life of a girl in the Catalan mountains in the early 20th century - the hard work, nearly inexistent education, early marriage and quick succession of births, the passing of generations. In other words, the hardscrabble life of the overwhelming majority of humanity until quite recently. As if the struggle with Nature were not hard enough, the magic word "republic" reaches even the miniscule mountain village where Conxa lives with her growing brood. Then History arrives, and she isn't kind.
Conxa understands nothing of the "reasons" for all this, but she well understands the tragic consequences for her family...
But life must go on, even if it is a reduced life, a resigned life, one in which time takes its relentless toll, even though for Conxa time came to a halt one morning in 1939. How well Barbal tells this part, and how speechless one is left at the end when time and change have taken all of her life away. The savor has gone and the tramping of feet is nigh.