Snippet: “Tell a Story” – a project to promote literature among tourists

This blogger loves the picture of a bookvan (mobile bookstore) in Lisbon (Belém?). It made the news in the summer of 2013, as it visited different sights to promote Portuguese authors among foreign tourists:

“In Cais do Sodré the tourists can meet O Memorial do Convento [Baltasar and Blimunda] by José Saramago. In Príncipe Real it is time for Eça de Queirós (1845-1900, Wikipedia) and his classic Os Maias [The Maias]. In Belém, to come across Fernando Pessoa and his Desassossego [The Book of Disquiet]. Translated into English, French, Spanish and German, the books by José Cardoso Pires (1925-1998, Wikipedia), Jacinto Lucas Pires (Porto, 1974, +info), Gonçalo M. Tavares and Miguel Torga (1907-1995, Wikipedia) are also some of those available in this van.” (Marta Spínola Aguiar)

You can read more about the project on its website.

SOURCES: Espalha factos, Aug. 1, 2013; Tell a Story (website)


Snippet: Rafael Tasis (1906-1966), writer

from the Wikipedia (Catalan):

Rafael Tasis i Marca (Barcelona, March 9, 1906 – Paris, December 4, 1966) was a Catalan writer and politician, librarian and owner of a family printing shop.

In 1922 he began his [magazine] contributions to La Mainada, directed by Avel·lí Artís i Balaguer, and to l’Estevet, by Manuel Carrasco i Formiguera, and later on in La Publicitat, Mirador, Revista de Catalunya, Serra d’Or, and many others.

During the 1930s he was the secretary general of the youth organization of [the political party] Acció Catalana Republicana, and from 1937 to 1938 he was appointed director general of the correctional services [prisons] of the Generalitat de Catalunya [Catalan regional government]. In 1939 he went to exile in Paris, but he returned in 1948. Even though he still worked as a correspondent for the exiles, contributing to magazines published outside of Spain, such as La Nostra Revista, Pont Blau, Quaderns de l’Exili, Vida Nova, Catalunya, and others, with the pseudonym of Pere Bernat or Blanquerna.

At the same time he boosted new cultural ideas and, managing the book and printing shop founded by his father, he published translations of French and English novels and anthologies.

The Catalan writers’ association has got this interesting page on Tasis’ life and work in English.

Two unpublished works by Tasis were brought out in 2015.

The publisher’s summary for Muntaner, 4 [street address in Barcelona], 232 p.:

Muntaner, 4 offers a fresco of Barcelona life on the eve of the outbreak of the [Spanish civil] war and the 1936 revolution and of the months afterwards. A choral novel in which the whole action takes place in the house of no. 4, Muntaner street of Barcelona, and which interweaves into it the experiences of those who live there together. Their stories capture the beats of a of a boiling metropolis and build up to a microcosm of the middle classes of those hopeful and convulsed years.

Polyhedral and modern in its use of a narrative technique of multiple, intertwined plots, Muntaner, 4 portrays rightfully the changes that in the middle of the war came about in public life and in the daily morals, open to the European winds. In the round of intertwined stories, in which the sexual relations are quite important, Tasis shows himself attentive to a precise rendering of the urban geography of Barcelona and, through the varied mosaic of characters, of the most relevant historic events.

Unpublished until now, surrounded by an aureole of legend, Ensiola recuperates one of the first novels of Catalan letters –that Tasis left unfinished– about the years of the Second Republic and the war of 1936-1939.

Pere Guixà, literary critic:

The literary value of this novel, that was written nearly at the same time as the events described by it, is not less than its historical value.

SOURCE: Wikipedia; Ensiola (publisher); review in “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, Nov. 26, 2016

Snippet: The forgotten writers of 1927 (non-fiction)


Jairo García Jaramillo, Memoria contra el olvido: las escritoras de la generación del 27 [Memory against the oblivion: the women writers of the generation of ’27], 2017

publisher’s summary:

The female writers of the “Generation of 27”, in the same way as many other women of our cultural history, have been made invisible from the beginning by the hegemonic tale of the Republican period, constituting a true blind spot in the manuals of literature, bibliographic repertoires, anthologies and study programs of the different educative levels in Spain. By joining the theoretical bases of historical materialism and critical feminism, this essay in its first part means to study in depth the reasons for this selective forgetfulness by the men who experienced together with them the Republican fervour, the [Spanish Civil] war and the long way of exile, without forgetting the very pernicious policies of oblivion exercised by the dictatorship and the indifference of the subsequent democratic governments, that have crossed them out little by little from the collective memory.

In line with the memorialist currents of recent decades, and facing a system of life that never remembers, the second part enters into the origin of the first female intellectuals of the 20th century in order to explain how their pioneering political and educational claims made possible this following generation of vanguard women who, already in the space of Republican freedom, arrived at being fundamental names of our letters, still to be rediscovered, such as among others Rosa Chacel, María Zambrano, Concha Méndez or Ernestina de Chapourcín.

excerpts from an article by Adolfo S. Ruiz:

“They were intelligent, corageous, committed and great writers, but nearly all are unknown and many have been forgotten. As if they had never existed. For the publishing world, literary history, educational programs and the general public, they continue being invisible.” […]

As exceptions, María Zambrano and Rosa Chancel have not been forgotten. … María Teresa León comes up, but always as Rafael Alberti’s wife. … Besides poetry, they also wrote prose, e.g.

Luisa Carnés, Tea Rooms: Mujeres obreras [Tea Rooms: working women] (1934), recently republished

Carmen Conde, Júbilos [jubilations]

María Teresa León, Cuentos de la España actual [Stories from current Spain] (1935)

All of them remained faithful to the Republic, which led most of them to external exile, the others to an internal exile, in which their Republican past was never pardoned. … They are not meant to substitue the male writers of the Generation of 1927, but to have the place they deserve next to them as equal contributors to one of the richest periods of Spanish literary history.


The Wikipedia offers this article on the Generation of ’27 that also contains links to the biographical articles on individual writers.

The women of this generation have been called Las Sinsombrero [the hatless]; the Wikipedia has got this article (in Spanish and Catalan only). Among the references are books also available in English by Shirley Mangini and Susan Kirkpatrick, though they might have been out of print for quite a long time…

SOURCE: Libreria Atrapasueños (cover and publisher’s summary); Adolfo S. Ruiz in La Vanguardia, July 15, 2017, p. 40 [printed edition]; (cover “Tea Rooms”)

Snippet: V.L. Mora’s “Fred Cabeza de Vaca”

Fred Cabeza de Vaca

Vicente Luis Mora, Fred Cabeza de Vaca [Fred Cowhead], 2017, 332 p.

28th Torrente Ballester prize

publisher’s summary:

A female academic plans to write a biography on “the most universal Spanish artist since Picasso”: Fred Cabeza de Vaca [Fred Cowhead]. For this she dives into an investigation that pretends to reconstruct the late artist’s life, but mainly to try to decipher the enigma behind the artist and the polemic person. Through interviews with both, colleagues as well as ex partners of the artist (of whom he keeps track with a numbered register as if they were objects to collect and discard), and through the writings and diaries of Cabeza de Vaca himself, there emerges a figure sometimes fascinating, sometimes repulsive, that functions perfectly as the archetype of the spell and the excesses of the contemporary art’s world. Thus, as readers we struggle to seek to understand if Cabeza de Vaca was a genius or a phoney, a visionary or an opportunist, an intelligent promoter of himself or a hopeless careerist.

Using a technique similar to that of the collage, Vicente Luis Mora has created a fascinating portrait of an artist, an epoch and a world, that of contemporary art, defined by excesses and by the radicality of carrying the work to limits that, as shows the case of Fred Cabeza de Vaca, often end with devouring the whole existence of those who decide to offer themselves in pursuit of the glamour and fame implicit in today’s art.

from a review by J.A. Masoliver Ródenas:

Fred Cabeza de Vaca represents an enormous leap [in the writer’s career], an ambitious novel into which he put six years, convinced that a writer’s greatness can be found in his most radical indepence. […] The literary references don’t define only a type of aesthetics but also a type of ethics, when he celebrates authors such as Salinger or Pynchon, far away from the world’s roar. […] He cites the Latin classics, Novalis, Paul Valéry […] The novel has got two centres, both equally forceful: the intelligent reflections on art and on his art, that show Mora’s solid knowledge and his alert intelligence. But that which will really fascinate the readers is his relationship with women. […] But the most intense pages are those of physical decay, the defeat that converts him into a human being. The novel ends with an incredible turn that resumes that which has been insinuated all through the book: the Spain of individual and public putrefaction. […] Fred Cabeza de Vaca is a formidable revelation.

SOURCE: Sexto Piso (publisher); review in “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, Nov. 11, 2017, p. 6 [printed edition]

Snippet: Cervantes prize 2017 to Sergio Ramírez

megustaleer - Ya nadie llora por mí - Sergio Ramírez

“Nobody cries for me any longer,” Ramírez’ latest novel (Alfaguara, PRH Spain)

The 2017 Cervantes prize, the most prestigious of Spanish letters, has been awarded to Sergio Ramírez (Nicaragua, 1942), the first Nicaraguan and the first Central American ever, who will receive it on April 23, 2018, in Spain.

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla characterized him as follows in El País:

A writer in a wide and broad sense of the word. A total author at 75 years: novelist, essayist, memorialist, journalist. But also a politician. A man of straight principles, committed to the Sandinista Revolution to the point of having been named vice-president –a position that he exercised from 1985 to 1990– by a Daniel Ortega who considers him his main nightmare today. He has been a critic of the authoritarian drift of his country. The international prestige of his conscience, that of a creator translated into 20 languages all over the world, weighs.

The Wikipedia has got this article in English. offers the following of Ramírez’s books in English:

Margarita, How Beautiful the Sea

Divine Punishment

Adiós Muchachos: A Memoir of the Sandinista Revolution

A Thousand Deaths Plus One

Hatful of Tigers: Reflections on Art, Culture and Politics

To Bury Our Fathers: A Novel of Nicaragua

Sandino: The Testimony of a Nicaraguan Patriot, 1921-1934


This blog contains articles on the Cervantes prize for 2014, 2013, and 2012.

SOURCE: El País, Nov. 16, 2017


Snippet: Aurora Bertrana’s “Oceanic paradises”

Aurora Bertrana, Paradisos oceànics [Oceanic paradises], (1930) 2017, 283 p.

According to Wikiquote:

Paradisos oceànics  was the first travel book published by the writer Aurora Bertrana i Salazar in 1930; a collection of articles that she wrote and mailed between 1926 and 1929 to the periodical D’Ací i d’Allà [“from here and there”] from Tahiti [French Polynesia]. The work, written in prose, is divided into four sections following the geography of the Society Islands: Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea and Bora-Bora.

The critic Julià Guillamon, who also works in the field of rescuing 20th century women authors from oblivion, remarks in his review of the new edition that the original cover was electric blue, with the title printed in the then fashionable Grotesk Lichte (1924) font.

Resultat d'imatges

Bertrana didn’t travel to the Pacific as an independent explorer but as the wife of Denys Choffat, a hydroelectric engineer charged with building a power plant in Papeete. The new edition in Catalan contains the part of Bertrana’s memories in which she describes the writing of the book, and eight texts of hers that had been only published in Spanish so far. There are also texts by modern authors who appreciate Bertrana’s work and her role as author and anthropologist, and who put her work into the context of 1930s women’s literature.

There is also available a new edition in Spanish, translated by Jenn Díaz.

The Wikipedia offers a concise article on the writer Aurora Bertrana (1892-1974) in English.

SOURCES: Julià Guillamon, review in “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, Nov. 11, 2017, pp. 5-6 [printed edition]; (2017 cover), blogger (original cover)

Snippet: José C. Vales’ “Celeste 65”

José C. Vales, Celeste 65, 2017, 592 p.

publisher’s summary:

A new literary comedy set in 1960s Nice

In the 1960s, Linton Blint, a man with a grey life, embittered by his lack of character and mistreated by his family, sees himself forced to flee from England.

Though he is terrified by a world that he mistrusts and that he doesn’t know (the pop and rebel one of the 1960s), he gets to the city of Nice, on the French riviera, where he is marveled by all the brilliance and glow of summer in one of the most glamorous cities of the world, encircled by pop music, very angry fashion and movie stars.

He stays at the luxurious hotel Negresco, and without really understanding how, he ends up involved in a delirious intrigue in which there mix the follies of the 60s with the large scale political conflicts that also characterized this epoch.

Entangled in a cruel criminal spiderweb, Linton will have to overcome his fears and his bewilderment to become a hero, both in love and in the brilliant society of Nice.


from a review by Lilian Neuman:

… The readers will believe in this gallery of formidable and intriguing Cote d’Azur characters. …

A good affair with lethal ladies and bodyguards. And that flows in this foam of the days that José Vales (Zamora, 1965) –translator and Nadal prize winner with Cabaret Biarritz—  captures with irony and humor, with talent and love for a time and a place. …


Sounds like good entertainment for dark winter days; and the book has got a nice cover. There is a 2015 post on Vales’ earlier, prize-winning novel.


SOURCE: Destino (Planeta, publisher); review in “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, Nov. 4, 2017, p. 8 [printed edition]