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)


Exercises in translation: “Down with borders”

Excerpted from Xavier Mas de Xaxàs op-ed article entitled “Fora les fronteres” [Down with borders]:

There is no doubt that it is difficult to combat fear. […] [According to the eurobarometre opinion poll] Immigration is the most bothering problem for Europeans. It seems as if our lives were more threatened by the immigrant than by the rising precariousness of our workplaces, by traffic accidents, or by the stress that makes us eat junk food and drink too much.

We have turned into fuel for nationalism and populism. […] But immigration has come down to pre-2014 levels, i.e. around 10,000 intrepids per month, people who risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean and look for a second chance in the European Union, the most important supranational organization in history: 511 million inhabitants unable to achieve a replacement birthrate, i.e. more than two children per couple.

Borders are an obstacle to collective progress and they must be abolished. There are economic studies that support the idea of prosperity based on the free movement of people.

[The author “cites” studies from the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C. (2006), and the American Economic Association (2011).]

[There are a lot more studies on the benefits of free trade than on the benefits of the free movement of people…] This opacity encourages xenophobia. The parties that govern Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Poland… grew with the massive arrival of immigrants to Europe in 2015… and today, as the problem has become a lot smaller, they stir fear to retain their share of power. The worst is that their racist discourse marks the policies of more moderate parties in power. Look for example to the problems of Merkel under the pressure of the “Demochristians” from Bavaria, her life partners who now don’t want to see immigrants.

There is nothing in Christianity that justifies the marginalization of the immigrant. There is no moral argument that allows me to sleep quietly, being an atheist or a believer, knowing that there are people that suffer and die because my country has fallen into an authoritarian and xenophobic drift.

Why does a person have to give up and accept misery if he or she is born in a miserable country? Wealth is not distributed in a uniform manner on this planet. Some areas are more adequate for economic prosperity than others. Energy ressources are where they are, and the consequences of colonialism weigh on the countries that see their forests and minerals depleted. The richest countries exacerbate these differences by raising barbed wire over arbitrary lines, encouraging nationalism, economic protectionism and religious fanatism, the purity of some ethnicities condemned to extinction.

The states use violence and human rights violations to stop immigration: [examples]… We are frightened; we want to maintain our welfare without knowing that the world is a different one, that the pressure of the desperate can only grow. We don’t believe anything of the immigrant appealing to peace, to contribute with his or her experience and capacity to make our societies better.

The World Bank has calculated that the migrants’ remittances… in 2016 were three times higher than all development aid. […] This money arrives steadily and is invested in housing, education, healthcare, and small businesses.

The freedom of movement is a human right that nonetheless is limited to the borders of a nation state. That doesn’t make sense. Human rights transcend whatever border. What arguments do we, who apparently have been born in the right place at the right moment, have to prevent somebody else from looking for a better life where he or she wants?

There was a time when we were afraid of bringing down the walls, of abolishing slavery, of giving women the vote. Today we know that these were unfounded fears, and overcoming them implied more peace and prosperity for everyone. The same will happen when we eliminate borders and reduce the nation state to a folkloric dance.

There is post on Xavier Mas de Xaxàs from May 2017.

SOURCE: La Vanguardia, June 30, 2018, p. 6 [printed edition]

Snippet: Eva Baltasar’s “Permafrost”


Eva Baltasar, Permagel [Permafrost], 2018, 192 p.

Premi Llibreter 2018 [Barcelona and Catalan booksellers’ prize for a published work, not endowed financially]

publisher’s summary:

Permafrost is that part of the earth that doesn’t ever totally thaw, and it’s the membrane that coats the heroine of this book. A manner to preserve that very soft part inside a person in formation. The outer world threatens, one has to dare to leave the familiar cell. Afterwards, gather strength: not doing anything but f***ing and reading. To find a place where the lie isn’t necessary, where the ice cracks. And begin.

from Miracle Sala’s review:

The whole novel focuses from and to the female universe: the vision that the female protagonist has got of herself and her own circumstances, the relationship with the women of her family (mother, sister and cousins) and with her lovers. Psychological disorders, effervescence of desire and s** between women, the discovery of the narrative “I” through a lively, modern, therapeutic and overflowing language.

The protagonist reveals herself as suicidal, but she is very vital. She seems cynical and cold, but she has got tenderness and patience. She is ironic, but also philosophical, with a very rich internal world. It seems that she is too lazy for life, but she likes to spend her time reading, enjoying s**, eating, art… “People are an accumulations of dresses and shoes,” she says in one moment of the work. But through the liveliness and the rhythm imposed by her language and the sincerity of feelings that she pours in it, we know that she is that and a lot more.

Permagel is the beginning of a trilogy that will continue with Boulder and Mamut. We congratulate Eva Baltasar to a strong beginning in the novel genre, with the firm step of a poetic and personal style that breaks up the ice and carries her readers away on the flow of words.


SOURCE: Laie (bookstore; the publisher’s website is under construction); review on Núvol (March 13, 2018)

Snippet: Paulina Pi de la Serra’s “Emma’s story”


Paulina Pi de la Serra, Història d’Emma [Emma’s story], 2018, 97 p.

publisher’s summary:

[The poet] Salvador Espriu defined her as “one of the few authentic values of our nation.” Paulina Pi de la Serra (1906-1991) is an author to be rediscovered. There has arrived the moment when her work, until know limited to the local sphere of Terrassa, can be known around the country.

Born in Terrassa in 1906 into a well-off, intellectual and Catalanist family, Paulina Pi de la Serra believed in her possibilities and knew how to make a place for herself in the Catalan culture world.

Història d’Emma is the only incursion that Paulina Pi de la Serra made into fiction: four short stories set in a cultured and cosmopolitan world at the time of the [Spanish Civil] war and postwar years. Written at different moments of her life, these stories were published together in 1982 by the Amics de les Arts i Joventuts Musicals de Terrassa [Terrassa friends of the arts and musical youth] club. Edicions del Núvol now recovers this shining volume.

Offered as a free e-book on the publisher’s page and available in print at bookstores.

Author information from the Wikipedia:

Paulina Pi de la Serra i Joly (Terrassa, 1906-1991) was a Catalan politician and cultural activist. Born into a well-off, intellectual, conservative and Catalanist family, at hardly more than 20 years of age she began her political activity. She became a very popular speaker and was called El rossinyol de la Lliga [The League’s (political party) nightingale]. During the Spanish Civil War she lived in Paris, where she worked different jobs (among them teacher and translator) and where she was interrogated by the Gestapo. In 1945 she returned to Terrassa to keep company to her father who was sick. Paulina Pi de la Serra worked as a highschool teacher of Catalan, French and other subjects. She wrote for newspapers, contributed to radio shows and held numerous speeches, becoming a cultural reference for the Anti-Franco resistance. In 1963 she promoted the creation of a UNESCO center in Terrassa. Paulina encouraged her nephew Quico Pi de la Serra to become a singer-songwriter.

Paulina had a secret daughter with the diplomat Joan Estelrich, both of them related to the Lliga Regionalista [regionalist league; political party]: Helena Feliu Pi de la Serra, who in 2012 published the novel Pecat original [Original sin], in which she unconvered the relationship and her story. Helena was born in Switzerland during a journey that Paulina camouflaged with a scholarship, and she was raised by a couple in the Gràcia neighborhood of Barcelona.


SOURCE: Biblioteca del Núvol (publisher), Viquipèdia

Snippet: Pedro Bravo’s “Excess baggage” (nonfiction)

megustaleer - Exceso de equipaje - Pedro Bravo

Pedro Bravo, Exceso de equipaje: Por qué el turismo es un gran invento hasta que deja de serlo [Excess baggage: why tourism is a great invention until it stops being such], 2018, 240 p.

publisher’s summary:

Suddenly, in the country that shows off as being the best tourist destination in the world, there has appeared a movement rejecting its most prosperous industry. Spaniards are traveling more and more but they also begin to see the defects hidden behind the other side of the picture postcard. What happened? Where does “turismofobia” come from? Didn’t we all agree that tourism was a profitable, nice and clean activity?

All over the world, not only in Spain, there have come up critical voices and there have been organized protests; the people reject seeing how their lives receive the impact of a business to which everythings seems to be permitted. A business that changes, grows and extends at full speed thanks to technology and to the contradictions of the territories that suffer from it without stopping to enhance it. Tourism generates jobs, but these are precarious and temporary. Tourism gives muscle to the macroeconomics but affects more and more the housing market. Tourism is a chance for people meeting each other, but it can turn into invasion. And yes, it is very contaminating.

How did we get here? Which are the sector’s keys? Which are its benefits? How much tourism is sufficient, and how much is too much? How does it affect us? Could it be done in a different way? Can one travel in another way? All of this is treated in Exceso de equipaje, something like a tourist guide for the tourism business.

A timely book for the summer tourist season. “Tourism” has already appeared a few times on this blog; there are older posts on tourism in Lisbon (2017, 2018) and Spain (2017).

SOURCE: Debate (PRH Spain; publisher)

Snippet: Rodrigo Murillo’s “Sentimental heroes”


Rodrigo Murillo, Los héroes sentimentales [The sentimental heroes], 2018, 304 p.

winner of the “I Premio Jose Ángel Mañas-Nuevos Talentos 2018″

publisher’s summary:

A mysterious ambush in the Andes mountains, a rich family divided by political violence and the guerrilla, and a priest who conserves his humanity while the whole country seems to fall down into the abyss. Los Heroes Sentimentales is a powerful novel, set in the 1990s Perú, based on real and documented facts, that illustrates to what amount simple and normal people, who only want to live in peace, can come to suffer when they see themselves absorbed by the hurricane of one of the most bloody and atrocious conflicts that Latin America experienced in its recent past.

author self-presentation:

My name is Rodrigo Murillo Bianchi. I was born in 1986 when Maradona scored his unforgettable goal, and when Chernobyl and the spaceship Challenger told the world that it wasn’t as modern and safe as it believed to be. I opened my eyes on the slopes of the volcano Misti, on an August day, in Arequipa (Perú). As a child I wanted to be a soccer player. I was an agile and tenacious goalkeeper, and my idols were Gialuca Pagliuca and Jorge Campos. When I learned that this was not possible, and given that I liked reading, I decided to become a lawyer. I did it and during a few years I worked for a bank corporationa and two law firms. Then there came the day when, bored by the routine and the corporate tedium, I decided to become a historian and I gave up my work as a lawyer. And when I was a historian and university chair of history, I decided to come to Europe and turn into a political scientist, analyst and journalist. Besides my professional law career (UPC), I studied Literary Narrative (PUCP) and completed two MA degrees. One in History, at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP), and the other in International Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

 SOURCE: Nuevos Talentos (publisher)

Snippet: Almeida’s “The faithful deceased” – Camões prize 2018

Germano Almeida, O fiel defunto [The faithful deceased], 2018, 328 p.

winner of the Camões prize 2018

publisher’s summary:

Everybody was caught by surprise, so no one tried to prevent the unexpected murder of the best known and most translated writer of the islands, a few moments before the start of the presentation ceremony of what turned out to be his last work. And yet, on that day the vast auditorium overflowed with a festive crowd of fans and other curious, all impatient with the expectation of an autograph in the already very popular book that they were preparing to acquire. So it had not occurred to anyone that an event of this nature, always awaited with general and great anxiety, could have such an unexpected as well as brutal outcome, especially given the quality of the people involved in the tragedy.


The Wikipedia offers this short article on Germano Almeida (Cape Verde, 1945), and this  one on the Camões Prize. Amazon lists Almeida’s novel The Last Will and Testament of Senhor da Silva Araujo as available in English.

This blog has got articles on previous editions of the Camões prize: 2015, 2014.

SOURCE: Caminho (publisher)

Snippet: Daniel Vázquez’ “Lena”


Daniel Vázquez Sallés, Lena, 2018, 240 p.

publisher’s summary:

The first time that Martin saw Lena on the beach, he knew that this young girl would be the woman of his life, but for this he has got to pay an expensive toll: turn into a hit man.

And though it might have been chance that made his life come across that of the Enabler (“el Posibilista”), maybe it was not such coincidence that the assumed the human condition of killing on request. Because if something was written it was no his vocation, but his insane love for Lena, that fatal writer, loved –and disowned– by her peers.

Assuming Knopfler’s identity and the infinite risks coming along with being a killer were no impediment for Martin, because his final goal, Lena, was the gift. And after all, Lena is the love story between a hit man and a writer over time. Daniel Vázques Sallés doesn’t play with the readers, but accompanies them along a life journey full of turns and of winks to the city of Barcelona and to some its famous and anonymous characters that, in one way or another, at some moment or another, have come across the author’s life.


The writer Daniel Vázquez Sallés (Barcelona, 1966) is best known for being the son of Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (1939-2003). There is more information on him, Lena and his previous books on the pages of the Balcells literary agency.

SOURCE: Alrevés (publisher)