The 2012 critics’ awards

Sant Jordi is a great day for literature, and especially for Catalan book sellers who earn 5 to 8% of their annual revenue on this day alone. But the books leading the best-selling lists of that day normally are not those considered the best by literary critics.

Ten days before Sant Jordi, on April 13, there took place the award ceremony of the Spanish literary critics’ awards (Premios de la Crítica) for the best books published in 2012. Unlike the prizes awarded by the publishing houses, that use these as a cheap way of promoting certain books, the critics’ awards are not endowed financially and not followed by advertising campaigns, but they carry a lot of prestige.

This year’s winners in the four official languages of Spain were:

Best novel written in Spanish: La hija del Este [The daughter from the East] by Clara Usón (Barcelona, 1961) [also winner of the Ciutat de Barcelona (City of Barcelona) and Continuará (To be continued) prizes]. Usón’s sixth novel is, according to the jury, “… a work of easy reading but that reflects deep thinking.” The plot evolves during the Balkan wars that led to the split up of Yugoslavia, and it is based on declarations collected by the Spanish news agency Efe. It goes back to the origins of the countries that made up Yugoslavia and “synthesizes very well the whole conflict”. Parallel to this, it explains the experiences of a recently graduated MD who is the daughter of a bloodthirsty general who caused terror during the whole conflict.

Best novel in Catalan: En caure la tarda [With the dawn] by Jordi Coca (Barcelona, 1947). A novel that portrays the thinking of Miquel Gironès, a 60-something isolated at home, who rewrites his own history and distorts the memory of those who surrounded him long time ago; a contemporary Robinson with whom Coca wanted to draw a politically incorrect portrait of the “mediocrity” of today’s Catalunya, according to his own words when presenting the novel.

Best novel in Basque: Martutene by Ramón Saizarbitoria

Best novel in Galician: Morgana en Esmelle by Begoña Caamaño

Best poetry book in Spanish: La bicicleta del panadero [The baker’s bycicle] by Juan Carlos Mestre

Best poetry book in Catalan: Vetlla [Watch] by Jordi Llavina [also winner of the Octubre (October) prize for poetry]

Best poetry book in Basque: Bitan esan beharra [“Twice to say”, acc. to google]

Best poetry book in Galician: Os ángulos da brasa [“The ember’s angles”, acc. to google]

[Most of the information contained in this post is taken from the original article by Pedro Vallín, entitled “Els barcelonins Clara Usón i Jordi Coca, premis de la Crítica”, La Vanguardia, 14/04/2013, p. 54]


Happy Book / Sant Jordi’s Day !!!


Today, the Unesco celebrates the World Book and Copyright Day, more information on their website. The autonomous region of Catalonia celebrates its patron saint George with a spring festival of books and roses. More information by the Catalan government here, an older blog article here, and more information on Catalan traditions by the Wikipedia here.

If you would like to get a visual impression of Barcelona during Sant Jordi, go to the La Vanguardia special and watch the video on the upper right hand side.

102_0882 llibres sant jordi 2013

Also today, in memory of the day of his death, the Miguel de Cervantes Prize is awarded by the Spanish king (this year done by the crown prince due to the limited mobility of the king…). This year’s prize winner is the writer and poet José Manuel Caballero Bonald (Caballeros, 1926).


Update after Sant Jordi 2013:

this year’s best-selling books were Victus, a historical novel on the defeat of Barcelona in 1714, written by Albert Sánchez Piñol, and Brúixoles que busquen somriures perduts [Compasses looking out for lost smiles] by Albert Espinosa, considered not a literate but a “mediatic” writer of best-selling books, and author of the popular TV series Polseres vermelles (Red Band Society in its US version).

BCN Comic Fair: the prize winners

The comic fair that took place a week ago in Barcelona (cf. last week’s post) also awarded some prizes:

the “great” one, in this case a lifetime-achievement award, was for a graphic artist called Purita (Purificación Campos, Barcelona, 1937), creator of Esther y su mundo (Patty’s world;  published 1971-1988) and Gina, among others; and more recently Las nuevas aventuras de Esther [Esther’s new adventures]. (Spanish Wikipedia article)

The prize for best comic book of 2012 by a Spanish author went to Miguelanxo Prado (A Coruña, 1958) for Ardalén. The title is the name of a mild and humid wind that breezes inland from the sea in Galicia, that takes the smell of the sea many kilometres away from the coast into the countryside, and that, according to popular belief, originates at the  coasts of America. The story wheels around young Sabela who is looking in a small Galician village for traces of her grandfather who emigrated to Cuba. (English Wikipedia article)

The prize for best comic book of 2012 by a foreign author went to Cyril Pedrosa (Poitiers, 1972) for Portugal, in which a graphic artist who undergoes a creative and love crisis rediscovers his Portuguese origins. (French Wikipedia article)

The revelation of the year artist was Oriol Hernández (Terrassa, 1983), co-author of La piel del oso [The bear’s hide]. His Spanish language blog is here.

Francesc Capdevila, aka Max

Judging from the English language sources on Francesc Capdevila (Barcelona, 1957), he is better known internationally than most Iberian literates.  His website is here;  his (Spanish) blog here, with interesting links to other graphic artists;  the Wikipedia has this article. offers a handful of bi-lingual children’s books illustrated by him.

This blogger got interested in him due to a recent article in El País‘ Sunday supplement El País Semanal.

April 11-14: International Comic Fair Barcelona

The English language website is somewhat scarce.

The Catalan news website had an article (+video) on the event. Under the heading “The international comic fair opens its gates with a large exhibition on Wild West comics and another one on the crisis,” it reported the following (excerpts):

On 19,000 square metres the fans of comics find all genres, from those of the superheroes that have seen a revival, to the Japanese Manga, somewhat on downturn. The exhibition on Wild West comics is the biggest that has ever taken place and shows 233 originals, and also some of the typical characters cut out in cardboard: cowboys, soldiers, Indians, villains, and vigilantes.

The exhibition “You cannot cut humour” (with reference to the generalized cuts in government spending as part of the reigning doctrine of austerity) is dedicated to those authors of graphic novels that portray the effects of the current crisis, the cuts, the vanishing purchasing power of the lower and middle classes, and the home evictions.

Other spaces are dedicated to the 75th anniversary of Superman, to the X-Patrol, and the Avengers. Warner Bros. presents new movies and videogames that are based on successful comics, such as The Iron Man and Pacific Rim.

The mentioned article points out that the “superhero” comics are those that have been most successful in keeping their sales during the crisis. They have a faithful readership that runs from age 8 to age 60.  On the other side, Manga comics have fared worst during the crisis; those that arrive in Spain are addressed mainly at adolescent readers with little purchasing power, depending on their parents’ wallet. The important publishers are now in a process of re-directing their business to concentrate on adult readers.

Sergio Vila-Sanjuán, Nadal prize 2013

Author: Sergio Vila-Sanjuán (Barcelona, 1957), studied history, obtained an MA at Boston University, works as a culture journalist and writer; Wikipedia article (in Catalan)

Title: Estaba en el aire [It was in the Air] (Destino, 240 pages, 19,50 EUR)

Argument: The plot takes places in Barcelona between 1960 and 1962 and moves around a radio program called Rinomicina le busca [Rinomicina looks out for you], that promoted a popular pharmac of that epoch, and that wanted to help those who had been separated from a loved one. Most of these disappearances had taken place during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), a fact that disturbs the Franco regime and that finally leads to the shutdown of the radio station. It shows the conflict between a new type of entrepreneurs and the old guard of the regime, and especially the paradox of the journalist who cannot fully comply with his obligations. The focal point is the upper-class but due to the disappearances personalities of other social strata make their way into the novel. “Everybody of these personalities has got a complex history of social, emotional and moral conflicts. This way, there is spun a very rich, but perfectly controlled, plot. For some the reconstruction of an epoch, a nostalgic journey for others, a narrative adventure for everybody, in which the imagination has got a central role within the continuous transformations. The result is a well-structured, pleasant book full of surprises, without the heavy load of history and with the document’s vitality” (J.A. Masoliver Ródenas, La Vanguardia “Culturas”, 27 Feb 2013, p.9)

Nadal Prize 2013: awarded on Christmas in Spain, Epiphany, 6 Jan; Wikipedia article.

As commented in another post, book prizes are a very successful and relatively cheap way of promoting a book. In late March, this novel was still no. 4 on the La Vanguardia‘s Top-10 bestselling books in Spanish, having been 5 weeks on the list. Then it disappeared.