Holiday exercise books for adults

Vol. 1 (2012)

They are loathed by a lot of Spanish high-school students: cuadernos de verano, basically exercise books that concerned parents (who cannot afford a private teacher) buy so that their offspring don’t forget the basics of the past academic year during the very long summer holidays (approx. 11 weeks).

Maths exercises for Catalan high-school students

After last year’s success with 15.000 copies sold, the publisher Blackie Books has now presented the second volume of its exercise book for adults; the aims are “mental deoxidization and cultural reforestation”. The authors are Daniel López Valle (texts) and Cristóbal Fortúnez (graphics; website).

Vol. 2 (2013)

These are exercise book that entertain (rarely the case with the traditional ones for students) and teach, a kind of Trivial Pursuit in paper format that gathers different fields of knowledge and transforms them in funny quizzes, wordsearches, labyrinths and tests. And it is not only about popular culture but also literature, art, history, politics, international facts together with movies, TV and the music of “our” youth (i.e. 1980s and 90s).

As to the contents of vol. 1, the publisher’s summary read:  151 exercises, 473 illustrations, 12 big info-graphic tables, 9 extraordinary histories, more than 100 hours of unusual study, more than 1,000 personalities and celebrities, more than 3,000 calories consumed when finished.

Among the topics treated in vol. 2 are:

“Does the Vatican have nuclear warheads?”

“Where does the Stendhal syndrome come from?”

“What’s the real name of Captain America?”

Example of the inside of vol. 2, taken from the illustrator’s website. (c) Cristóbal Fortúnez


[This post is based on Blackie Books’ website and Kiko Amat’s review in “Culturas”, La Vanguardia, July 24, 2013, p. 22]


Life’s novel: Andrés Trapiello’s diaries

Miseria y compañia [Misery and company] is the title of the 18th volume of Andrés Trapiello’s (Manzaneda de Torío, León, 1953) published diaries (Salón de pasos perdidos [Lost steps lounge] series. According to Mauricio Bach’s review (Culturas, La Vanguardia, July 10, 2013, p. 14) Trapiello concentrates on the apparently unimportant and describes the small things in life, such as a journey to give a speech at some Cervantes Institute, a family trip to visit the Palladio villae of northern Italy, a broken leg, laments of the cultural world in general and certain of the author’s nemesis in particular, etc.  Due to his mastery of the art of narration, these small events “become marvellous chapters of life’s novel” (Bach). The reviewer compares these diaries to Éric Rohmer‘s films, a fact which makes them very attractive to this blogger.

Trapiello’s homepage (Spanish) and blog (Spanish)

Wikipedia article (Spanish)

Barcelona: new bookstores defying the economic crisis

The regional newspage “” recently informed about two new
bookstore projects in Barcelona where four bookstores had closed

Though the general atmosphere is not very optimistic, the new stores try to become cultural meeting points, i.e. offer more than just selling books, as e.g.  public readings, books presentations and reading clubs.

One of them opening these days is called La Impossible, specializing in books in Catalan, and the owners are former employees of the Proa Espais bookstore that closed not too long ago.

Another one that has recently opened is Re-Read, a “low-cost” bookstore, that makes use of the bookshelves of the former Catalònia store that closed at the beginning of 2013 and sells 2nd hand books in a special way: the books are flawless, bought by the owner at a price of around 0,2 EUR apiece, and then sold for prices such as one book = 3 EUR, two books = 5 EUR, five books = 10 EUR… This concept seems to be very successful…

Urban sketchers: 4th int’l symposium, Barcelona, 11 – 13 July 2013

“Rediscovering the Eixample district” by Sagar

Urban Sketchers, a “collective” of 6.461 artists from 30 countries, will hold its fourth international symposium in Barcelona next week (previous venues were Portland, Lisbon and Santo Domingo). The founder of this movement, Gabriel Campanario, blogger, was born here, though since 2006 he has lived in Seattle where he edits a price winning blog on the Seattle Times, and a weekly column, Seattle Sketchers. He is the author of The Art of Urban Sketching. Drawing on Location around the World, a collection of more than 500 drawings.

Urban Sketchers is a not-for-profit movement that fosters the art of in situ drawing. The illustrator spends at least ten to twenty minutes observing her environment, appreciating a vast amount of details and nuances, and translating it into a drawing in her (paper) notebook with whatever “tool” she was able to bring along. It is a kind of journalistic reporting in its purest form. Artists have always taken drawn notes for their later studio work; in this case, the drawing is the final purpose.

Barcelona City Hall is the publisher of the Carnet de Voyage [“journey card” – drawing book] collection in which illustrators draw their neighborhood. The album Voltant per Sants [“Walking around in Sants”] by Swasky won the last international prize at the XIII Rendez-vous du carnets de voyage fair held in Clermont-Ferrand, the most important of its kind in Europe. Here you can see (and buy) all of the nine books published so far.

Another artist featured by La Vanguardia in their article on urban sketching is Sagar, blogger.

Crime Novel Week 2013, Gijón, July 5 – 14

The official website is Spanish only.

El País newspaper is the one closely following the event. Juan Carlos Galindo wrote an article presenting the event of which we reproduce parts of the opening here:

To resist is to defeat, says the old motto, and this is what the crime novel week has done, as it returns to Gijón as every July; with a heterogeneous, ambitious and varied program full of great authors and social criticism as in other occasions. … a program that focuses on corruption and white-collar crime that are present in the part of society that claimed for itself the lost honour.

This focus was unavoidable in country [Spain!] where, to just name a few examples, the former boss of the businessmen’s association, some of the most important bankers and the ex-treasurer of the ruling [Popular Party] are either accused of serious crimes or already in jail. And if the crime novel has one virtue, it is that of confronting society’s problems, lifting sewer lids, bringing to light the moral misery. Not in vain the genre as we know it was born around the Great Depression and its disastrous social consequences. The current crisis gives the perfect frame.

“We thank Bárcenas [former PP treasurer now in jail],” says Paco Camarasa, bookseller and the event’s organizer, who on Saturday, July 6, will present the Greek author Petros Markaris, who in his novels around the police investigator Kostas Kharitos dissects all that is wrong in a country, Greece, that has become a paradigm of political and financial corruption and of the effects of the abuse of a few, a nation in full financial and social breakdown.



Bookseller novel: “Life when it was ours” by Marian Izaguirre

A book whose foreign language rights were sold before it came to the Spanish bookstores. With La vida cuando era nuestra (“Life when it was ours”) the writer and Spanish philologist Marian Izaguirre (Bilbao, 1951) has made herself known among a wider reading public, even though her literary debut was 20 years ago with Para toda la vida (“For your whole life”) and she has published five more novels since then.

The plot is set in a second-hand bookstore of dreary post-Civil War Madrid. The store is owned by the couple of Matías, a pre-war editor, and Lola, formerly a happy translator. The war robbed them of their former jobs. One day there happens to enter the store an enigmatic Englishwoman that will change their lives. Matías puts a book into the shop’s window and opens it on the first page, with the intention of progressing one page every day so that the customers can read it slowly. It’s a book of memories that Lola has just read to Alice, the Englishwoman, and that transfers them to the Aristocratic England and bustling Paris of the early 20th century, with artists and writers. It reconstructs an epoch’s historic setting that serves as a scene for the development of a bitter-sweet  history full of mystery.

This novel proves Izaguirre’s passion for books and her interest in historical documentation, recreating researched historical sites without overwhelming the reader with boring data. Additionally she plays with an intimate tone.

There is the possibility to take a sneak preview into the Spanish original on her website.

[All information on the novel taken from Carina Farreras’ comprehensive review “Misteri i amor entre llibres” (“Mystery and love between books”), “Culturas”, La Vanguardia, 26 June 2013, p.10]