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: Raül Garrigasait’s “Strangers”


Raül Garrigasait, Els estranys [The Strangers], 2017, 192 p.

Publisher’s summary:

In the year 1837, in the middle of the Carlist war [cf. the Wikipedia article for the background], in a moment of a violent clash between the past and the future, a young Prussian crosses the Pyrenees to fight in favour of Order, but a misunderstanding leaves him stuck in a ruinous and buffling city. With the passing days his amazement only grows, until it becomes a constant company, the only way left to him to view the world. Friendship, family, religion, politics: in the place everything flips, or transfigures, or becomes undone.

Els estranys is a novel that moves between humour and tragedy, full of music, of eccentric characters and of scenes of an extraordinary plasticity. With a style that touches all registers, changing between the present and the past, the book makes the readers travel to the center of strangeness that everyone carries inside him- or herself.

After translating Greeks and Germans for a long time, Raül Garrigasait (Solsona, 1979) surprised his readers with a sparkling essay, El gos cosmopolità i dos espècimens més [The cosmopolitan dog and two other specimens]. The pleasure of merging narration and reflection in one and the same work that already manifested itself in that book, has made him write the present novel.

All of this sounds very strange to this blogger…


SOURCE: Edicions del 1984 (publisher’s blog)

Snippet: Jenn Díaz’ “family life”

Jenn Díaz, Vida familiar [family life], 2017, 192 p.

Mercè Rodoreda prize for stories and narrations in Catalan 2016 (6,000 €)

Publisher’s summary:

Jenn Díaz’ stories break out in the closest everyday life: a girl who breaks off with her mother as she would with a lover, an adolescent who lives the first love and the first death at the same time, the lonely mother in front of the frightened child, the girl who doesn’t understand her sister who doesn’t live at home any longer, a birthday celebration, the father’s secret lover… Of these familiar characters, the writer grasps the moments in which there occurs a rupture, a wound, an illumination. With a whispering writing style, she creates a map of family relations, of the emotional heritage that jumps from one generation to the next, of the daily non-communication, and also of the insecurity in front of a life that sometimes offers too many paths.

Considering that two different institutions (Omnium Cultural and Enciclopèdia Catalana) work together on the book award, the prize money is laughable. The title is not really original, either -this blogger stumbled upon Rohinton Mistry’s Family Matters (2002) a few days ago- but the subject sounds interesting… and the book made it on last week’s list of the ten bestselling books in Catalan (“Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, Feb. 11, 2017).

SOURCE: Proa (Grup 62, Planeta)

Snippet: Ramon Llull prize 2017 to Pilar Rahola

It’s the most important and highest endowed literary prize for a Catalan novel, and also in its 37th edition it has been awarded to a so called “mediatic” author, i.e. a writer better known for their TV appearances than for their literary merits, though this year at least there exists no doubt as to the winner’s authorship in Catalan…

The 2017 winner is Pilar Rahola (Barcelona, 1958; Wikipedia article) for her novel Rosa de Cendra [Ash Rose]. The novel will be published in Catalan, Spanish, and French.

Rough summary from the source:

It is a family’s history in a very convulsive moment in which there mix hopes and miseries. Barcelona between 1901 and 1908. The protagonist, Albert Corner, after surviving the Cuban war [1898] returns to his country, but he is no longer the same: an unscrupulous man. The survivor makes a fortune and gets connected to the upper Catalan bourgeoisie. The beginning of organized trade unionism, Lerrouxisme with its dialectic anti-Catalan load, the Anarchists’ bombs… everything finds its place in the novel. In total there are two well-defined male protagonists, and the plot is centered on the Setmana Tràgica [Tragic week] of 1909.

Other writers before Rahola have written about the events of the Setmana Tràgica, for more details cf. the Wikipedia article.

SOURCE: Núria Escur, La Vanguardia, Feb. 4, 2017, p. 37 [printed edition]



Snippet: 8th “Ink Crimes” prize to Marc Moreno

During the opening act of Barcelona crime novel week 2017 (BCNegra), the 8th Crims de Tinta  [“ink crimes”] prize, sponsored by RBA-La Magrana (a big publishing house), was awarded to Marc Moreno (Barcelona, 1977), owner of the small Llibres del Delicte publishing house, specialized in Catalan crime novels, and author of five crime novels. The winning novel is entitled Temps de rates [Rats’ times] and set in Barcelona’s Verneda neighborhood. It starts with a drug dealer on the run who leaves a rucksack containing eight kilograms of cocaine with a neighbor of his on the same floor. Eloi draws the attention of all the mafiosi of his neighborhood who want to know where all of this material has come from. The jury decided unanimously in favor of Moreno’s novel due to “the dramatic force of the arguments and the desperate characters and the not at all complacent view on a nearly always hidden reality. […] The archetype of the losers has been brought to the extreme, creating surviving and amoral anti-heroes who, despite all of their efforts to the contrary, generate the readers’ empathy. […] The novel shows a willingness to get close to the most unpleasant reality, following the social function of a crime novel.” (Poverty, crime, drugs, and bad luck.)

Moreno’s other books are:

Cabdills [Chieftains] (2011)

Independència d’interessos [Independence of interests] (2013)

El silenci dels pactes [The silence of the pacts] (2014)

Contra l’aparador [Against the showcase] (2015)

and, together with S. Bennasar, Ll. Llort and S. Macip, La reina de diamants [The diamond queen] (2014)

Sounds a little bit like a Catalan Hunter S. Thompson to this blogger who might abstain from reading Moreno as he likes to preserve his peace of mind ignoring society’s most unpleasant domains…

SOURCE: (newspaper), Jan. 26, 2017

Snippet: Espido Freire, writer

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Still a relatively young writer in 2017, María Laura Espido Freire (Bilbao, 1974; Wikipedia articles: English, Spanish = a lot more comprehensive), using only her last names as an author, has already written and published an impressive number of novels, short stories, essays, travel journals, children’s and juvenile literature and collective works as well as translations.

In 1999, Espido Freire became the youngest writer ever to win the well-endowed Planeta prize for her third novel, Melocotones helados [Frozen peaches], 336 p.

Publisher’s summary:

Elsa, a young painter, has seen herself forced to leave home after receiving death threats for which she doesn’t know the reason, and she moves to another city to leave with her grandfather. In this kind of exile that nobody wants to take seriously, Elsa enters the intricate human relations that she had neglected to concentrate on painting, and she enters the history of her own family, especially that of a cousin with whom she shares the forename and family names. This way she faces her own fragility, the errors, the mix of identities, the living a wrong life without knowing it. Is it possible that even when dying there are confusions?

In 2004 she published Querida Jane, querida Charlotte [Dear Jane, dear Charlotte], 250 p., another novel reflecting her interest in female protagonists, women writers.

Publisher’s summary:

Espido Freire hasn’t escaped either the fascination that the life and works of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters still exercise over thousands of readers around the world. Fruit of this spell, there came up in her the desire to address the enigma that no scholar up to now has been able to resolve satisfactorily: how four single and poor women, autodidacts, with bad health, isolated in the countryside in a century that not precisely maximized their intellectual restlessness, who died before reaching age forty, managed to write a dozen of the best novels in Literature. The author decided then to set off on a journey into the imaginary and geographic world of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters and this book is the diary of this endeavour.


This blogger was reminded to write about Espido Freire, when he saw 1) a magazine ad for a guided holiday tour to the England of Jane Austen and the Brontës in the company of Espido Freire, and 2) a recommendation for her latest juvenile novel, El chico de la flecha [The guy with the arrow], 2016, 240 p.

Publisher’s summary:

Marco is a boy like anybody we could meet today: intelligent, sensitive, with a lot of qualities and also a lot of fears. With twelve years he is at the age in which life changes for good; in which he leaves behind the child without responsibilities and begins to take steps in the way of the adults. His story and his worries could be those of any other adolescent, and his errors very similar. The only difference is that Marco lives in the first century AD in Emerita Augusta, today’s Mérida, a city in the Roman Hispania where free citizens live at the side of slaves, where the women live under tutelage of their families, and where society, though sophisticated, enjoys violent entertainment.

Marco, together with his friend Aselo, commits errors, learns to aks for help, and definitely does that which any other guy of his age: grow.


Espido Freire’s personal homepage is in Spanish and English and contains, among a lot of other elements, a picture gallery; her blog on WordPress is in Spanish and contains more pictures and links to her radio appearances, and to her Instagram and Facebook accounts, where she has got literally thousands of followers.

This blogger started reading Melocotones helados, but hasn’t been able to finish it yet. It is a quiet book with slow action, and there have been a lot of others that appeared more attractive…

SOURCE: Casa del Libro (Melocotones), Casa del Libro (Querida Jane), Anaya (El chico)


Snippet: BCN Negra 2017 – 26 Jan – 4 Feb

Barcelona crime novel week already at its 12th edition.

Reinstalled Crims de Tinta [Ink crimes] prize, 8th edition, will be awarded on Jan. 26.

The Pepe Carvalho prize will be given to Dennis Lehane. There will be an exhibition on the detective Pepe Carvalho, as there have passed 40 years since Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’s (1939-2003, Wikipedia article) novel La soledad del mánager [The Angst-Ridden Executive].

More information in Catalan and Spanish at the source.

The program looks interesting with a lot of different round-table discussions on e.g. Catalan crime fiction, crime in Barcelona, Catalunya or the Basque Country, women in British crime fiction, etc. The only thing that struck this blogger as somewhat strange is that the program lists all the academic achievements of the lesser-known participants next to their names instead of concentrating on the main one, i.e. the reason for their being there, e.g. hardly anybody is only a journalist, all are also writers (but who is not?); with the better-known participants they simply put “writer”…


Snippet: Agustín Fernández Mallo’s “Nocilla Dream”

Agustín Fernández Mallo, Nocilla Dream [Hershey dream], 2007, 226 p.

Publisher’s summary:

“A book full of hits, of memorable pages, of delicious details that, as Juan Bonilla notes in his accurate prologue, in no way ought to pass by unnoticed.”

Vicente Luis Mora, Quimera, Nov. 2006.

Nocilla dream, that can bear without regret the label indie, is one of the riskiest narrative bets of recent years. It is full of references to the American independent cinema, to the history of collage, to conceptual art, to pragmatic architecture, to the PCs’ evolution and to the novel’s decadence. Agustín Fernández Mallo concentrates on the outsiders of the 21st century, and especially on the mysteriours connection between some alternative and globalized lives that travel through B movie scenarios: blondes from a whorehouse who dream that some customer takes them to the East, anarchists who live in strange micronations, Chinese senior citizens addicted to surfing, an Argentine who lives in a Las Vegas apart-hotel and builds a unique monument to Jorge Luis Borges… All of them trapped in the leading metaphor of deserts and of the beauty of the empty.


They call it a novel, but is is rather a collection of 113 short pieces, some of them connected or referring to each other. The individual pieces consist of a few lines or up to three pages. Some of them are quotations from scientists, episodes from the history of science, etc. All of them are entertaining. They can be read individually or in a row and make for a surprisingly pleasureable reading experience; maybe like your favourite columnist in a newspaper’s weekend edition. Nocilla Dream has been succeeded by Nocilla Experience and Nocilla Lab, so far unknown to this blogger.

The English Wikipedia has got a short article on the author; the Spanish one is more comprehensive…

SOURCE: Candaya (publisher)