Baztán trilogy’s 2nd volume out and bestselling

After the successful debut with The Invisible Guardian, Dolores Redondo recently published the second volume of her “Baztán Trilogy”, Legado en los huesos [Legacy in the bones].

Her website summarizes it like this:

The trial against Johana Marquez´s stepfather is about to begin. A pregnant woman attends it: Amaia Salazar, the police inspector who had solved the so called basajaun crimes one year before, sowing terror in the Batzan Valley. Amaia had also gathered incriminating evidence against Jason Medina, who imitating the modus operandi of basajaun had murdered, raped and maimed Johana, the teenage daughter of his wife. Suddenly, the judge announces that the trial has to be canceled: the accused has just committed suicide in the bathroom of the courthouse. The news causes expectation and anger among attendees, and Amaia is claimed by the police: the accused has left a suicide note addressed to the Inspector, a note containing a brief and disturbing message: “Tarttalo”. With only one word, an involving plot will be uncovered that will involve the inspector to a rousing finale.

This blogger hasn’t found any “professional” review yet but the blogosphere has been very active. Here are some excerpts of a very thorough review by Advina quien lee [Guess who is reading]:

“In my opinion Legado en los huesos is not only up to its predecessor but it has been a moving, original and totally addictive reading experience of which I could not let go. The story leaves intact the freshness of the preceding story, spiced up with different subplots that generate authentic intrigue, with a different protagonist and a very special, nearly magic setting.  … As in the previous book, there is the official case and alongside a personal history of the investigator. … I find the construction of the protagonist, Amaia Salazar, very well done, whom Redondo endows with psychological complexity and a lot of nuances. She is a strong, intelligent, upright woman and a professional in her work. In her interior, the terrorized and neglected girl she once was is still alive. When we got to know her she felt frustrated for the fact of not getting pregnant, but now as she is about to give birth she will understand all the difficulties involved in being a mother. And more so as she has to divide her time between the cares for the newborn and the solving of a sinister case. In a lot of occasions we see her overwhelmed, doubting her personal capacity and at the limit of exhaustion. … Again Redondo has achieved a unique setting. It results incredibly easy to imagine the Batzán valley through the precise and juicy descriptions she offers to us. The green, humid and leafy woods,  their crystal clear creeks, the cold, the rain, offer a unique frame that makes the novel especially attractive. Above all because the author manages to transfer us there and let us see what her protagonists have before themselves. … One of the things that I liked most about The Invisible Guardian was the introduction to Basque-Navarra culture, customs and mythology. … this time she tells us about Tarttalo, a giant cyclop who lived in the mountain caves and fed itself on animals and humans. It was a very aggressive being who controlled its victims by a magic ring that responded to its voice… Dolores Redondo’s narrative style is fluent, simple, direct and clear. Although the narrative voice is that of an omniscient third person, normally it is bound by the protagonist’s perceptions and experiences, focussing almost all action in her. … Its structure of 41 not too long chapters together with a generous rhythm that does not go down in any moment and becomes quicker towards the end, make of this novel one that reads easily. Its end results startling. To sum up: Legado en los huesos has been a fascinating read that traps from the first to the last page. Disturbing, addictive, dark, with a lot of intrigue, overwhelming emotions, an insurmountable environment and a very special atmosphere.”

[Harper Collins offers this description of The Invisible Guardian, the trilogy’s preceding novel already translated into English.]


Sant Jordi prize 2013 to Vicenç Pagès Jordà

Last Friday, Dec. 13 (Saint Lucia’s day), the cultural organization Omnium Cultural celebrated its annual award night (“la nit de Santa Llúcia”). Its novel prize (“Sant Jordi” = St. George, Catalunya’s patron saint), endowed with 63,000 EUR went to Vicenç Pagès Jordà (Figueres, 1963) for Dies de frontera [border days].

The novel does not (only) talk about physical or state borders – it is set at the border town of La Jonquera – but mainly about the “eternal border implied by constantly living in a forced provisionality, ” as explains the author. “It talks about an important part of a whole generation, the one of today’s 30-somethings, that has given up living in a provisional precariousness for living in a definite precariousness, and that sees how this has consequences on all its human relations: with the partner, parents…”

Dies de frontera is about a couple of this generation that lives in La Jonquera and has to make decisions. “But how can you decide anything, if you don’t have anything firm? There are a lot of people in this situation; and for this reason they don’t know where they are and who get used to it.” In between, in the couple’s relationship, there is some “‘slipping’ – both in (un-) faithfulness as in their communication, and there are different epochs of ‘skating’ of one and the other.”

All together in a landscape emphasized by Pagès: “the unknow Empordà, the border one, not at all idyllic, somewhat like Tijuana, with prostitutes, strangers that come to buy tobacco, alcohol and gas, and the burnt surroundings left by a devastating fire [in July 2012, blogger’s note].”


Pagès’ website shows a 1992 book of his about literary prizes…



Cover of one of his latest novels, “The Whist players” (2009)

An Iberian author by adoption: C. Nooteboom

As you might know, Cees Nooteboom (The Hague, 1933) is a Dutch author specialized in travel writing who spends a few months each summer at his house on the Balearic island of Menorca. Some of his books are dedicated to his adopted part-time patria, namely so Rode regen [red rain; Lluvia roja] and Roads to Santiago. This blogger has been impressed by Nooteboom’s culture.

His website is maintained in four languages. Richard L. Kagan wrote this review of Roads to Santiago in the NYT in 1997. offers this review of the same book. Rode regen (2007) has not been translated into English yet. In it Nooteboom describes the peculiarities of life in a country house that stands empty during the largest part of the year, its surrounding fauna and flora and his attempts at gardening (and cooking) there, his experiences with his neighbors, basic public services, etc. and he shares memories of his earliest journeys by bicycle and on foot, …


Herralde award to Àlvaro Enrigue

A piece of news published on November 4. This year’s Herralde Novel Award goes to the Mexican writer Álvaro Enrigue for Muerte súbita [Sudden death]. 476 novels written in Spanish competed for this prize endowed with 18,000 EUR.

The winning piece is about an imaginary tennis match between Caravaggio and Quevedo played in 1599 that confronts two different world views: the Vatican orthodoxy and a laxer vision that represents modernity in an embrionic state. Tennis is used as a pretext to talk about a world that finally had become round as a ball and as a metaphor for the transit from the 16th to the 17th century that needed a tie break through “sudden death”.

Too brainy for this blogger.


Joana Raspall, Poet and Librarian, Dies at 100

The news came from the Sant Feliu de Llobregat city council. Joana Raspall (July 1, 1913 to December 4, 2013) had been a poet and librarian, and her homeplace (since 1916) had celebrated a “Raspall year” in her honor (website in Catalan).

The Catalan Writers’ Association offers this short biography (in English). A lot of her poetry was addressed to children and adolescents, and some of the titles cited in the press are

Petits poemes per a nois i noies  [Small poems for boys and girls]

Llum i gira-sols [Light and sunflowers],

Bon dia, poesia [Good morning poetry],

Degotall de poemes [Non stop poems],

Versos amics [Friend(ly) verses],

Pinzellades en vers [Brushstrokes in verses], 

Com el plomissol [Like down (feathers)],

Serpentines de versos [Verse serpentines],

Escaleta al vent [Ladder to the wind],

Font de versos  [Spring of verses],

A compàs dels versos [To the beat of the verses].


Raspall also wrote child and juvenile fiction:

El mal vent [The bad wind],

Contes del si és no és [Stories of the if it is it isn’t],

Contes increïbles [Incredible stories],

La trampa de la Urbanització K [The trap of the K development];


as well as for adults:

Diamants i culs de got [Diamonds and glass bottoms],

El cau de les heures [The ivy cache],

El calaix del mig i vell rellotge [The middle drawer and old watch].


As a philologist Raspall wrote, together with Jaume Riera, Diccionari de sinònims [Dictionary of synonyms], and with Joan Martí, Diccionari de locucions i frases fetes [Dictionary of idioms] and Diccionari d’homònims i parònims [Dictionary of homonyms and paronyms].


Source: La Vanguardia

Nov. 30 – Dec. 8: Guadalajara Int’l Book Fair


Time again for the most important trade fair for Spanish books. The official website is here. This year’s guest of honor is Israel.

Winston Manrique Sabogal of El País newspaper has been there and shared these impressons (unauthorized excerpts):

The fair is an ecosystem of what is going on (and going to come) in the world of literature, and it is getting larger every year. The 27th edition of the fair occupies a space of 34,000 sqm (approx. 366,000 sqft). Nearly 1,000 activities, 600 authors of 28 different countries, 550 book presentations, 20,000 industry professionals of 42 different countries, 1,900 publishing houses and an estimated 700,000 visitors – all this during the nine days the fair lasts.

Four tendencies that can be observed: the normalization of the harmonic coexistence of physical and digital books; the confirmation of Latin America as a buffer of Spain’s book sales crisis; the consolidation of a market for journalistic books on contemporary topics sometimes left unaddressed or underrepresented by the conventional news; and the fair as a showcase for new Latin American authors that are here contracted by literary agents from all over the world.

Regarding the second tendency: during 2012 the book export to Latin America mitigated the decline of a sector that in Spain lost 28% of its sales during the last five years. The book export already represents 30% of Spain’s total book sales, and Latin America is the second most important market after the EU.

The same author elaborated on the future of the physical book in a different article that cites numerous professionals who would all support the thesis that “The Book is dead. Long live the Book!”. There will be a market for the digital format as well as for high quality physical books, besides mass-market paperbacks. Publishing houses that care for the design of their title pages, the quality of their paper and bindings, that try new formats and forms of cooperation, e.g. with luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton (Gallimard), etc. look optimistically to the future.

These are often small independent publishers as those presented by Sonia Corona. In Guadalajara they have a special section where groups of publishers present themselves together, e.g. the Alianza de Editores Mexicanos Independientes [Alliance of Independent Mexican Publishers]. Other publishers do it on their own with space that a distributor shares with them, etc. They say they will never be able to compete with the marketing budgets of the big publishing groups but that their mere presence in Guadalajara already helps them to get new contacts and publicity. Two of these small independent publishers cited by Corona are the Mexican La Caja de Cerillos [the matchbox] and the Spanish Libros del K.O. [K.O. books]. Their representatives maintain that the few books they edit can be considered almost handmade works of art rather than industrially produced mass-market goods due to the attention to detail invested in them. Besides creating works of art, these small publishers also often serve to make new authors, who remain at first undetected by the big publishing houses, known to a wider reading public.

The daily El País has got a whole article series on the fair. Very few of them touch Israeli authors even though Israel is this year’s guest of honor. In the case of La Vanguardia and El País, these articles have been confined to the literary supplements whose digital versions are only accessible through a paid subscription.

Iberian authors in NYT’s 100 Notable Books ’13

On this year’s New York Times list of 100 Notable Books of 2013, this blogger found the following title written by an Iberian author:

THE INFATUATIONS. By Javier Marías. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa. (Knopf, $26.95.) Amid a proliferation of alternative perspectives, Marías’s novel explores its female narrator’s relationship with the widow and the best friend of a murdered man.

More information in his English-speaking blog.


Another title written originally in the language of Cervantes is:

THE SOUND OF THINGS FALLING. By Juan Gabriel Vásquez. Translated by Anne McLean. (Riverhead, $27.95.) This gripping Colombian novel, built on the country’s tragic history with the drug trade, meditates on love, fate and death.

NPR had this (text + audio), The Guardian this reviewThe New York Times offers a review by Dwight Garner and another by Edmund White but this blogger would exceed his free articles if he copied the links…


And a story set in the Iberian peninsula:

THE TWO HOTEL FRANCFORTS. By David Leavitt. (Bloomsbury, $25.) In Leavitt’s atmospheric novel of 1940 Lisbon, as two couples await passage to New York, the husbands embark on an affair.