Ramón Saizarbitoria’s “Martutene” – now available in Spanish

The latest work of the Basque sociologist, poet and writer Ramón Saizarbitoria (San Sebastian, 1944), Martutene, is now available in a Spanish translation and has gained a lot of praise. Laura Ferrero wrote an enthusiastic review in La Vanguardia‘s supplement “Culturas” (June 19, 2013, pp. 12-13). She summarized the book as follows:

“In Martutene, Saizarbitoria presents two stories in one. The one of a man called Abaitua, a ginecologist tortured by far away guilt, and that of Julia, a translator. The two’s voices alternate the thread of events. The stories of Abaitua with his wife Pilar, a couple settled in the conveniences of a life without emotion, not even true agreement. On the other hand there is Julia’s life, wife of Martín, the frustrated great writer and half-God in front of whom she has had to bow down more than once. Into these quiet lives that are also full of boredom appears Lynn, a young American sociologist who stays at Martín and Julia’s house. Lynn’s arrival functions like a catalyst for the emotional/romantic experiences of the two couples. It offers them the possibility to be someone else and to see themselves in a new mirror: that of love, guilt, and failure. Lynn encarnates the attraction of the unknown as well as the implicit guilt after the desire … A story that portrays romantic triangles from an unusual perspective: that of the injustices committed by the married couples against those who interfere in their lives… Martutene concentrates on apparently insignificant aspects that expose our miseries and our deepest fears as human beings. This is its greatness, that makes the novel unique.”

Constructed like an homage to Max Frisch’s Montauk.

The only up-to-date Wikipedia article on Saizarbitoria, i.e. including what seems to be the complete bibliography, is written in Basque…


Exhibition NY Public Library: Federico García Lorca – until July 20, 2013

These days at the New York Public Library you can learn more about Spanish poet Federico García Lorca (1898-1936), his stay in New York City during the academic year 1929 to 1930, and the influence of this experience on his life and work.

The exhibition is entitled “Back Tomorrow. Federico García Lorca, Poet in New York” and open until July 20, 2013.

More information: www.lorcanyc.com, www.garcia-lorca.org, www.accioncultural.es

Booksellers’ awards for Parcerisas and Richler

The Catalan booksellers association has awarded its annual Llibreter [bookseller] prizes for the best works published in 2012.

In the category of Catalan Literature the prize went to the poet and translator Francesc Parcerisas for La primavera a Pequín [Spring in Beijing]. The work is a collection of reflections by Parcerisas during a stay in Beijing and describes scenes of everyday Chinese culture. [Catalan Wikipedia article on author]

In the category of Other Literatures the prize went to the Canadian author Mordecai Richler (post-humously) for Barney’s Version, published originally in 1997 but only recently in Catalan, translated by Xavier Pàmies. The jury stressed its “complex structure, the topic’s originality, and a fluid prose that make it fresh.”

In the category Illustrated Album the prize went to La caputxeta vermella [The Girl in Red], an urban adaptation of the classic tale, illustrated with a lot of realism and detail by Roberto Innocenti, with a text by the late Aaron Frisch.

It’s the first time that the Llibreter ends up in two categories at the same publisher, Quaderns Crema.

“Victus” to be translated into English

This week [early June 2013] it was announced in the news that Harper Collins will publish the English version of the best-selling Spanish (and recently Catalan) novel on the siege of Barcelona in 1714, Victus by Albert Sánchez Piñol, in time for the third centenary of the events.

The publisher’s [La Campana] publicity for the novel is the following (their website has an impressive list on all the news on the book in the Spanish and Catalan press):

«I will tell it all! How they screwed general Villarroel, how they defeated our victories. Because, until now, of this war I have only heard the versions of those above or of the enemy.»

Victus is a historical novel that narrates the War of the Spanish Succession, a conflict that could be considered the first of the world struggles and that ends on 11 September 1714 with the apocalyptic assault on Barcelona. It is also the tragedy of Martí Zuviría, a youth from Barcelona, an advantaged pupil of the Marquess of Vauban, who turns into a genius of military engineering.

Victus is a splurge of information and historical rigour in the service of an agile, potent and relaxed tale, with a rabidly contemporary diction that takes us from France to Barcelona via Madrid, Toledo, Tortosa and the battles of Brihuega and Almansa. And it is also a work on the irreducible Barcelona of 1714 that suffered an irregular siege of 13 months and the bombardment of more than 30,000 projectiles.

Victus questions the official versions of both sides and gives a voice to the authentic protagonists of the history: from the enormous figure of Villarroel, the general who defended the Catalan capital with tears in his eyes, to the civilians and anonymous soldiers of all the nations that fought on both sides of the city walls.

But above all, Victus is a first-class literary feast that is devoured in the way the great works have always been devoured, which is reflected by the fact that even before being published in its original version the rights for the Russian, German, Dutch and French versions had already been sold.

«A hurricane of fresh air,  an iconoclastic vision from below that rewrites the myth of 1714 with more power. More vibrant. Nearer.» Joan B. Culla, professor of Contemporary History.

Also a movie is being prepared.

The Wikipedia has got this information on the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714).

Update:  Amazon.com informs that Victus (in English) will be available on Sept. 9, 2014, and the site offers quite a few “customer” reviews.

The amazon.co.uk site lists it for Oct. 9, 2014.

There had been speculations about the translator; according to the amazon information there are two, Daniel Hahn and Thomas Bunstead.

Discovering the important things in life under the starry sky of Ibiza

The critic Enrique Turpin entitled his recent review of Julio Llamazares’ Las lagrimas de San Lorenzo [Saint Lawrence’s tears] “Ode to the veritable things” (“Culturas”, La Vanguardia, 29 May 2013, p. 13). He points out that throughout the novel appears a rare Bob Dylan composition of the Bootleg Series: “For his age, he’s wise / He’s go his mother’s eyes/ There’s gladness in his heart / He’s young and he’s wild /My only prayer is, if I can’t be there / Lord, protect my child” (Lord protect my child, 1983). During the night in which one has the best view of meteor showers [“the night of Saint Lawrence’s tears”] a father and his son ly down under the sky of the Balearic island of Eivissa/Ibiza to contemplate this natural wonder. As the stars fall, the father remembers long gone by times and places and how he discovered Freedom there. The son starts to discover what life is about, that there is a space for forgiveness and also for repentance.

“… makes return the best Llamazares. Transparent, essential prose with a message of future.” (E. Turpin)

The Wikipedia has a few lines on Julio Llamazares (Vegamián, León, 1955) and his work. His novels, essays, etc. have not been translated into English yet.