11/24 – 12/02: Guadalajara International Book Fair

These days the most important book fair for Spanish-speaking literature takes place in Guadalajara, Mexico. Its English-speaking website is here. Spain’s daily El País has got a special section dedicated to the fair.

The newspaper described that the opening ceremony last Saturday concentrated on the late Carlos Fuentes,  a Mexican writer who died in May,  and who was one of the central figures of the “Boom” of Latin-American literature in the 1960s, and on the guest of honor to the fair, Chile.

According to El País, until December 2, 17,000 professionals of the publishing sector will visit the fair, 2,000 publishing houses will be represented, 500 writers will come, and a total of 400 cultural events will be held.



Cervantes Prize 2012

Today we were informed by the Spanish Ministry of Culture of the winner of the Cervantes Prize 2012, considered the most prestigious in Spanish letters and endowed with 125,000 EUR. This year it goes to the Andalusian writer and poet José Manuel Caballero Bonald. Comments in the Spanish press stressed the writer’s nonconformity, and remarked that he recently published a new book of poetry, Entre guerras [Between wars] (2012).

The Wikipedia has got this article on Caballero Bonald, and this one on the Cervantes prize.

Elvira Lindo: a new “Manolito Four-Eyes”

Ten years after the last volume of the Manolito Four-Eyes children’s books series in Spanish (seven books between 1994 and 2002) – the English translations are more recent – the Madrid daily El País informs (in an article written by Silvia Hernando) about a new sequel, this time entitled Mejor Manolo [Better Manolo (than Manolito)], emphasizing the fact that the protagonist has grown and does not like to be named with a diminutive any longer. “[T]he latest addition to the universe of innocence, daily life, and smiles… created by the writer Elvira Lindo.”

The García Moreno family has grown by one member, Manolo has a little sister, and its economic situation has improved – despite the persistent crisis all around. Manolo lives an intensive religious experience; a fact that might lead to controversy among some adult readers deciding on curricular readings.

In her conversation with El País, Lindo explains that she likes to put everyday language into the mouths and minds of her characters.  That is one reason why her books written in Castilian are not only read by Spanish children but also by students of Spanish all over the world. And these colloquial expressions are especially challenging for the translators.

The book description for volume 1 in English on amazon.com is a good introduction to the world of Manolito Gafotas [literally: “little Manuel with enormous glasses”]. The Wikipedia has this article on Elvira Lindo. Her website (Spanish-only) is here.


M. Fañanás, “The stone witch”

As already commented on another occasion, there exist a host of literary prizes on the Iberian peninsula (around 50 for books written in Catalan alone). This novel has won the  Nèstor Luján for the best Historical Novel 2012.

The cover’s text reads like this:

“Some had heard that she cured the sick, others that in reality she was a witch who bothered the Christians, but they all coinsided in pointing out that this woman had a special gift that left noboby indifferent.”

Pere Freixenet manages to get access to the most secret archives of the cathedral in Girona where he finds the history of Guisla Recasens, the legendary Witch of the Cathedral, immortalized in one of the gargoyles.

This way he demonstrates that the popular legend has got a protagonist, and we get to know her story in a Girona where the confrontations between Christians and Jews and the Inquisition’s witch hunts were everyday’s business.

The author, Miquel Fañanás (Girona, 1948), wrote several books before, two of which (Susqueda i altres narracions [Susqueda and other stories] and La pedra màgica [The magic stone; a children’s book]) have been translated into Mandarin.

Maria Dueñas’ second novel

Behind the novels by E.L. James, Ken Follet, and one about vampires, Dueñas second novel holds the sixth position on this week’s Fnac’s best-seller list of Spanish-language books.

The publisher’s description on amazon.es reads like is this:

A shining novel, a tribute to second chances, reconciliation and reconstruction. The reunion with the author who fascinated us between seamstresses [hint at the Spanish title of her first novel, The Time in Between] and who seduces us again with an unforgettable mission. Unable to recompose her own broken pieces, the professor Blanca Perea desperately accepts what she thinks will be a tedious academic project. Her personal stability collapsed, her marriage crashed. Confused and devastated, flight to the insignificant Californian university of Santa Cecilia is her only option. The campus where she ends up results a lot more attractive than thought; it is being agitated by a civic movement against the destruction of a legendary landscape with the aim of building a shopping center there. And her academic project, the catalogization of her fellow Spaniard Andrés Fontana, who has been dead for decades, is not as unsubstantial as it looked. As she works on expanding the memory of this forgotten hispanist, Daniel Carter,  an experienced and attractive American colleague of hers who does not hold the position he should, gets closer to the protagonist. Placed between these two men, one through his posthumous testimonies and the other through his growing involvement, Blanca will see herself drawn into a framework of found feelings, buried intrigues, and doors that haven’t been closed totally. Why did not anybody care to rescue the work Andrés Fontana left when he died? Why, after thirty years, does someone have an interest that finally all that gets known? What does all the old hispanist’s unfinished work have to do with the things going on at Santa Cecilia in the present? What did motivate him to take the dust off the untold history of the Camino Real‘s missions? Before finding the answers, Blanca still has to understand a lot.

28 readers have left their opinion on Amazon (visited on Nov. 8). They had all been fascinated by Dueñas first novel and now had read the second. They are split  in opposing halves. 14 like the novel, and the other 14 do not like it at all. The highest ranked reader review says that it seems to be written in a haste. We have to wait and see if English language readers will get a chance to judge for themselves.


Spanish national translation prizes 2012

Spanish national prize for a translator’s work 2012

Francisco J. Uriz (Zaragoza, 1932) is honored “for a life dedicated to translation, for an immense work as translator of Scandinavian literature into Spanish, and for the founding of Casa del Traductor [The translator’s house].”

This prize, endowed with 20.000 EUR and awarded by the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports, wants to recognize and distinguish the complete work by a Spanish translator.

Uriz, a law graduate from Zaragoza, has lived for 30 years in Stockholm, Sweden, where he taught and translated narrative, drama and poetry. He worked as an official translator for the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and founded La Casa del Traductor [The translator’s house] in Tarazona, Zaragoza.

The prize winner translates mainly from Swedish into Spanish and, teaming up with Swedish colleagues, Spanish and Latin American drama into Swedish.

National prize for the best translation into Spanish

Luz Gómez García (Madrid, 1967) receives an equally endowed prize, for the best translation into one of Spain’s official languages, for her translation of Mahmud Darwix’s En presencia de la ausencia [In the abscence’s presence].

Gómez García holds a PhD in Arabic Philology from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid where she works as a professor in Arabic and Islamic Studies. Her translations of the Palestine poet Mahmud Darwix have underpinned that author’s recognition in Spain. Her main fields of study are islam and islamism and the translation of Arabic poetry. In the past, she was a researcher at the CEDEJ [Center for Economic, Legal and Social Studies and Documentation] in Cairo, Egypt, and at the IFEAD [formerly: French Institute for Arab Studies, now here] in Damascus, Syria, and a lecturer of Arabic and Islamic Studies as well as of Translation and Interpretation a the University of Alicante, Spain. She contributes to the newspaper El País, and works as an analyst for CNN+, TVE, Cadena SER and RNE [Spanish national radio channels]. The Spanish Wikipedia has this article on her; the UAM has this information (in Spanish).


Most of the information contained here comes from an article published in the online newspaper Voz pópuli on Nov. 6, 2012

Juan F. Ferré wins the Herralde Novel Prize 2012

In international comparison Spain has few readers but a lot of literary prizes – often used as a piece of relatively cheap advertising. Here is part of an article on the latest one:

That politics and economics, especially during the past years, have been an authentic carnival is something thought by nearly everybody, “but we never say it loud”, sustains the writer Juan Francisco Ferré (Málaga, 1962). He shouts it out in a novel, Karnaval, which he bases on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal; that represents a political pamphlet in which Ferré throws an acid glance on capitalism’s excesses, and that made him winner of the XXX Herralde Novel Prize, endowed with 18.000,- EUR and awarded by the publishing house Anagrama. …

“I wanted to reclaim the genre of the novel as a defense weapon, but also give a comical reading to very serious issues,” argues Ferré … The novel originates on May 14, 2011, when Strauss-Kahn was accused of sexaul assault of a black hotel worker in NYC. “It is not a chronicle but the attempt to show what a novel can do we these topics; I wanted to analyse a power figure, a topic art has always been interested in; but I think recently in literature it hasn’t been possible to see what a powerful person is and what he or she embodies.”

Rather than shocking, the former FMI managing director’s episode had a stimulating effect on Ferré that led him to think and write. It struck him that Strauss-Kahn was looking for a “free ride” while he had all the money in the world to pay for it. “But I don’t make a villain of him: the concepts for good, ugly, or bad are not easily applicable categories to life,” resumes Ferré.

Still Strauss-Kahn remains “a puppet, an avatar,” a personality “not as salvage as those in other of my novels; there is more irony and refinement here;” the caustic level comes from the fact that the author from Málaga remakes Strauss-Kahn, “DK” or “the great god K” in the novel, into a type of dissident (“Occupy Wall Street”) who wants to sabotage the system. … it is a kind of simulation of the French Revolution in 2011.” That is not the only ‘acid’ joke in a work of 500 pages. Ferré also invents a fictitious documentary in which he forces real personalities to opinionate on the abuse of power, such as the writers Houellebecq and Roth, or so different thinkers such as Slavoj Zizek and Beatriz Preciado.

The Herralde jury was formed by Salvador Clotas, Marcos Giralt Torrente, Vicente Molina Foix, and the publisher himself, Jorge Herralde. Runner-up for the award was Sara Mesa (Madrid, 1976) with Cuatro por cuatro [Four by four]. And there was a special mentioning of Miguel Ángel Hernández (Murcia, 1977), Intento de escapada [Getaway attempt]. There participated 467 original works.

(Unofficial translation of parts of a larger article by Carles Geli, published on the daily El País website on November 5, 2012.)

More on Juan F. Ferré in English here; his Spanish blog is here.