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: Notivol’s “Emptying the cabinets”

Rodolfo Notivol, Vaciar los armarios [Emptying the cabinets], 2016, 388 p.

publisher’s summary:

Marina, the second of nine siblings, looks back after the years and in a long monologue slowly reveals the history of her family. With its lights and shadows, the records surface with the naturalness of her who narrates in the only possible way what happened.

In the same way as when an old family cupboard is emptied, the words and events of a whole lifetime are exposed to light again: the child games, the complicity of and differences between siblings, the house where they grew up, a mother with a sour character who irradiates a powerful presence, the different ways that they took when they became adults. And in the background, the necessity of affection and the incapacity of showing it. The search for happiness, the outstreched hands and the words that were not spoken.

In Vaciar los armarios, Rodolfo Notivol narrates in a masterful way stories as universal as those of all families, and so particular as those that only happen in our family.

Juan Ángel Juristo (critic): “… the reader is torn between tears and laughter. This is the best quality of the book, which makes it precious.”

SOURCE: Xordica (publisher); J.A. Juristo, review in “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, May 27, 2017, p. 8 [printed edition]

Tourism as a social problem

Unofficial translation of an op-ed article by Julio Llamazares, published in El País:

I come back from Lisbon, exhausted from fighting with the thousands of tourists that by day and night fill the streets of the white city, apparently recently en vogue such as other cities of the center and the south of Europe. It had been some time since I last visited the place, and besides the views, the historic monuments and the streets with its characteristic trams, a lot of them already used by tourists only, it took an effort to recognize it, such has been the change during recent years. The famous gentrification, the economic and aesthetic epidemic that consumerism imposes wherever mass-tourism gets to, has converted Lisbon into a new Barcelona in the same manner that Barcelona is a reflection of Rome or Prague. With the exception of the monuments, the modern neighborhoods and a few corners, everything has been homologated in these cities; the traditional trade and commerce has disappeared, substituted by franchises and by fashion stores; and the local populations are devoted to the unscrupulous fleecing of the tourists, who, rather than travellers, have been turned into victims of a new and legal banditry, accepted by all or nearly all. “Don Dinero” (“Sir Money”) is too powerful to take into account ethical considerations.

But the problem of gentrification and the excess of tourists begins to affect also these populations that observe how their cities become more expensive all the time and practically impossible to live in, which pushes them to the suburbs or into madness, such are the noise and agglomeration of people. While I was in Lisbon I read in this newspaper that for the native population of Barcelona tourism already constitutes the major problem in their daily life, above unemployment and the crisis that topped the list before. I.e. that which was seen as an economic solution begins to be seen as a problem by many, including by a lot of those who live off it. Even though tourism creates jobs, the precariousness of these and the increase in the cost of living brought about by tourism have negative effects on them. And the same happens with the environment, that is meant to be restored with new taxes on the tourists, which ultimately are nothing else but a new form of fleecing.

One of the big changes of the last decades of the 20th century and the first ones of the 21st is the massification of travel, until then a privilege of the upper classes or of romantic wanderers who tried to find themselves in the landscapes of other places in the world. I don’t think that anybody is against the democratization of travel, as nobody can be against the democratization of knowledge, but if it is not regulated in some way, tourism is going to be (already being it in a lot of places) the last plague of humanity.

SOURCE: Julio Llamazares, El País, July 1, 2017, p. 2

Snippet: Teresa Solana’s “A Short-cut to Paradise”

Teresa Solana, Drecera al paradís/A shortcut to paradise, 2007/2011

A fresh and lively Barcelona crime story and at the same time a satire on the world of Iberian literature with the constant quarrels between authors that write quality literature and those that sell a lot of books… Published in 2007 this blogger read it with a delay of nine years, and it still appeared to be very up to date both in its portrayal of normal people’s problems of making ends meet as in its depictions of contemporary writers, their vanities and their discussions. Her other crime novels are also very good.

This post has been waiting to be published for more than a year… You will find more information on the novel and its author at the Source.

SOURCE: Bitter Lemon Press (publisher in English); Grup 62 (Catalan publisher, cover)

Snippet: A Civil War love story

Sonsoles Ónega, Después del amor [After love], 2017, 592 p.

Fernando Lara novel prize 2017

Publisher’s summary:

An unforgettable story of secret love that crossed a war and overcame all social barriers.

Carme travelled by train from Barcelona when an exchange of glances changed her life forever. It was 1933 and Frederic Escofet and Carmen Trilla –he an army captain; her a wife trapped in an unhappy marriage– wove a love story that neither gossip, nor the Spanish Civil War, nor exile were able to destroy, but that left in Carmen’s three children the trace of uprooting.

Based on real facts, Sonsoles Ónega puts into the format of a novel the story of a brave woman who reconstructed her identity in a Spain where women were not allowed to love and stop loving. An unforgettable story of secret love whose protagonists had to face all kinds of social conventionalisms.


Xavi Ayén cites the author in an article on the book. “I wanted to concentrate on her, Carmen Trilla, known for her elegance and beauty as the ‘Greta Garbo of Barcelona’ in the 1930s,” and who reveals herself as a Madame Bovary with the courage to finally leave her husband and be at the side of the man whom she really loved.” Ayén writes that Escofet’s biograph left out Trilla because his subject wanted to spare his first wife the disgrace. The same biographer, Xavier Febrés, gave Ónega access to his material in which Escofet himself explained the love story. Ayén says that many readers will think that Ónega exaggerates but the author maintains that she lessened the intensity. “Feelings are the prime material of the novel.” The bad guy of the story is Trilla’s husband. For background information on the epoch, Barcelona’s social life, etc. Ónega used La Vanguardia‘s newspaper archive. According to Ayén, the novel has got “all the elements of a bestseller and presents different registers, i.e. that of the romantic, adventure, costumbrista or historic novel.”

Sonsoles Ónega (Madrid, 1977) is a parliament reporter for Telecinco, a private TV station that belongs to the Berlusconi Mediaset group. This is her fifth published novel.

This blogger is cautious with novels that are publicized as “unforgettable” and possible bestsellers; and he doesn’t like Telecinco

SOURCE: Planeta (publisher), Xavi Ayén in La Vanguardia, June 17, 2017, p. 43 [printed edition]

Snippet: Cabré’s “When the twilight comes”

Jaume Cabré, Quan arriba la penombra [When the twilight comes], 2017, 288 p.

Publisher’s summary:

A frightened child that rebels against the tyranny of a teacher, a murderer who confesses in front of the next victim, a thief consumed by a painting that he just stole, a writer who threatens his publisher with suicide, an old man who takes a walk through the settings where he served during the war… These are shocking stories that intertwine or meet each other, always with dynamism, energy, a touch of humour and incursions into fantasy.

Quan arriba la pensombra is a collection of stories that light up like flintstones. There are restless individuals who would like to be somewhere else, lawless characters, aromas of a thriller, bits of irony, fantastic elements… with the technical mastery that has made him a celebrated author in all of Europe -forward and backward jumps, changes in the viewpoint, braiding voices-, but also with the vital passion. Jaume Cabré has put together a compact book without any superfluous word. Quan arriba la penombra is a story collection imbricated in a solitary and full cone, stories touched by darkness and rage, but also by irony, fantasy and playing.


Cabré’s previous novel Confessions has been translated into English, cf. this 2014 post, one of the most popular ever on this blog. There is also a 2015 post on an essay.

SOURCE: Grup 62 (Planeta, publisher)

Snippet: Carmen Posada’s “Cayetana’s daughter”

Carmen Posadas, La hija de Cayetana [The duchess’s daughter], 2016, 520 p.

Publisher’s summary:

An amazing and forgotten episode protagonized by one of the most famous women in our History: Cayetana de Alba, the unforgettable muse of Goya.

Eccentric, capricious and free, for more than two hundred years her power of seduction has endured unalterable. But very few know that the duchess adopted a black girl, María Luz, whom she loved and educated as her own daughter and to whom she bequeathed part of her fortune.

Carmen Posadas narrates with a master’s hand the fate of the two mothers: the adoptive one with her loves and dramas at Carlos IV’s court, an authentic nest of intrigue, and that of the biological one, Trinidad, who, as a slave in Spain, fights to find the baby that was taken from her shortly after giving birth.

Posadas presents interesting places (Cuba, Madrid, Sevilla, Cádiz, Madeira and the Coto de Doñana (reserve) and a lot of palace politics, art, and social history: how people lived at the end of the 18th and in the early 19th century, the French Revolution seen from afar, violence as part of daily life, especially for poor women, and the impotence of rich and poor alike in front of epidemics and death. At the end of the book, the author explains that she stuck to the facts wherever possible, i.e. mainly with reference to the life of the duchess and the painter Goya. This blogger didn’t know that there lived slaves in the Iberian peninsula in the 18th century – mostly as luxury objects to show off with, though this didn’t improve the way they were treated/abused. He enjoyed the book, except for the excessive descriptions of dresses and hairstyles…

More information on the Uruguayan-Spanish author Carmen Posadas (Montevideo, 1953) who has lived most of her life in Spain can be found at the Wikipedia, though the bibliography is incomplete in the English article. Also on the house of Alba. offers her novels Child’s Play, The Last Resort, and Little Indiscretions in English.

SOURCE: Planeta (publisher)

Snippet: Formentor prize to Alberto Manguel

The Argentine-Canadian author Alberto Manguel (Buenos Aires, 1948) is the winner of the 2017 Premio Formentor de las Letras [Formentor letter prize] in recognition of his work in total as “one of the most lucid inquiries in the organic history of world literature,” according to the jury. “The minute recreation of the art of reading, the expertise with which the readers learn to understand the immensity of the world belong to the encyclopedic knowledge which Alberto Manguel has used to portray the life of books.” (jury: Inger Enkvist, Lila Azam Zanganeh, Daniel Fernández, Francisco Jarauta and Basilio Baltasar)

Manguel, they say, has always been especially attentive to the importance of reading for the young generations, a fact to point out in a time such as ours in which the entertainment industry and new technologies dissipate the readers’ attention and absorb the time formerly used for emotive and aesthetic education. In recognizing the importance of Manguel’s literary work, the jury “confirms the inevitable obligation to protect the people of letters who sustain the great universal library.”

The prize will be awarded in September during the “Formentor literary conversations”.

Manguel has published in Spanish as well as in English; he is a writer, translator and publisher, member of the Argentine Academy of Letters, and since June 2016 he directs the Mariano Moreno national library in Buenos Aires (coming from Princeton University).

In his biography stands out his special personal and intellectual relationship with Jorge Luis Borges, whom he got to know during a summer job at the Pigmalion bookstore in Buenos Aires and for whom he read several times a week at his home between 1964 and 1968.

Manguel started to work at the recently founded publishing house Galerna, whose owner Guillermo Schavelzon, 35 years later and headquartered in Barcelona, would become his literary agent.

He worked as a reader for different publishing houses such as Denoël, Gallimard and Les Lettres Nouvelles in Paris, and for Calder & Boyars in London, and he received his first literary award while in Paris, in 1971: that of the Argentine newspaper La Nación for a story collection that the shared with Bernardo Schiavetta.

After he had lived in Tahiti and the UK, in 1982 Manguel moved to Toronto, Canada, where he lived until the year 2000, when he moved to a Medieval farm in France.

His first novel, News from a Foreign Country Came, won the 1992 McKitterick prize.

In 2011 came out in Spanish Conversaciones con un amigo [Conversations with a friend] in which Manguel, in a series of chats with the French editor Claude Rouquet, remembers a lot of his life’s events and the genesis of his most important books, and he also opinionates on a wide range of topics.

For his part, Manguel has remarked that it is an “enormous responsibility” having been chosen for the award, that he accepts with “honour” as a prize for his defense of reading and with respect caused by the winners of the prize’s former editions.


The Wikipedia has articles on the Prix Formentor and on the author Alberto Manguel. In contrast to most of the other Spanish literary prizes, the Formentor is a serious one that rewards quality and doesn’t involve commercial interests of a publisher…

SOURCE: EFE, El Mundo, May 30, 2017