“Cafè Barcelona” – a Dutch-Catalan experience

The publisher’s promo reads like this:

The “Cafè Barcelona” is in the centre of Amsterdam and at the heart of this story. Greetje, the cafè’s owner, has reorganized her life alongside Roos after her husband’s death. Arjen, Greetje’s son, comes home from a mission in Srebrenica with the Dutch U.N. “blue helmets”; and a little while later, Annabel, Roos’ daughter, feels led to take a trip around the world. Close or far away, all four of them are present in the cafè’s daily life, where the cooks change frequently and the faithful customers come to eat lunch or have a beer. But life’s ties always hide some secrets.  With this splendid novel, Joan Carreras proposes a passionate reading experience, full of shared joys and tragedies, of family presences and absences, of mysteries that maybe don’t seem to be such, and of authentic humanity.

Joan Carreras (Barcelona, 1962), Cafè Barcelona, 288 pages, 19,- EUR.

Ciutat de Barcelona [City of Barcelona] prize 2013 (best Catalan novel)

author’s homepage (Catalan only)

Source: Grup 62


Snippet: Portuguese Immigration to the US

A non-fiction book documenting the experiences of Portuguese immigrants to the United States of America has been announced for the fall. “We believe this project will do justice to our ancestors and highlight a new, very exciting human element, perhaps never shown so dramatically,” the president of the Portuguese Heritage Publications of California, Henrique Denis, who will edit the work, told Lusa news agency. This nonprofit organization seeks to research, preserve and disseminate the memories of the Portuguese in California.

(Aside: Must be a very Iberian thing to announce books a few months in advance…)

Source: Destak Feb. 12, 2014


Investigators and journalists like those of the past

The publisher’s description:

After a long convalescence from the wounds suffered in a tough body-to-body fight, the commissioner Ruiz is back. She returns on the same day that a man is found dead in the hedges of the Retiro park. It is fall in a strange Madrid where the protests of the “occupy” movement mix with the news of the suicides in a multinational company. The corpse found in the park appears to fit in with this serious labor issue but still something remains unclear. Quicker than she should, the young investigator sees herself drawn into a battle between what her instinct dictates and her health. She and the veteran journalist Luna get trapped in a battle typical of an era of greed and inequality.

Paco Camarasa praises Berna González Harbour’s second novel, Margen de error [Margin of error].  Her first novel, Verano en rojo [Summer in red] focussed on the dark aspects of the Catholic church, this one centers on multinational companies.  The starting point is the apparent suicide by a young concierge of the company “Petrol de France” – one more of an already considerable list of employees of a company in the process of restructuring. The investigator is again María Ruiz, “a policewoman who still believes in what she does”. Who listens to the victim’s mother who doesn’t believe that somebody who just bought an Aston Martin would commit suicide [the reviewer doesn’t explain where a concierge finds the money to buy an Aston Martin, maybe the novel does].  Another protagonist is the journalist Javier Luna, “explaining reality to try and find the truth”. And then there is Tomás, a boring IT specialist, discreet but effective, “a friend of his friends”. The book is described as an “action novel” that narrates the events of a few days without the need for detailed descriptions of the places. Camarasa stresses that it talks about people as human beings in contrast to many human resources departments that only see them as numbers of employees.

Sources: RBAEl País Feb. 18, 2014

Snippet: Biblioteca Breve award to Fernando Aramburu

Fernando Aramburu (San Sebastian, 1959; Wikipedia) won this year’s Biblioteca Breve award [Short library; 30.000,- EUR; Seix Barral publishing house; 945 competing entries] for Ávidas pretensiones [Greedy pretensions]: a satire around the “poetic days” of Morilla del Pinar (imaginary town) where during three days the participating poets are hardly interested in literature but in sex, fun and literary glory. The jury praised its prose rich in shadows, its hilarity and starkness. One can get a glimpse of Aramburu’s work in the title Spain’s Great Untranslated (2013).

Source: La Vanguardia Feb. 10, 2014

Spanish (and Catalan) “femicrime” authors

An article by Carles Geli written in the context of BCNegra 2014 presented femicrime authors and their detectives and discussed the differences of crime novels written by female authors in comparison with traditional (male) crime fiction. Some insights are reproduced here:

Spanish and Catalan authors and their recent works (if mentioned):

Alicia Giménez Bartlett (Almansa, 1951; Wikipedia), a pioneer on the Spanish scene with her detective Petra Delicado: 9 novels so far, three novels available in English (according to amazon.com);

Berna González Harbour (Santander, 1965; a journalist with a managing position at El País), Margen de error [Error margin], investigator: María Ruiz, tech-savvy;

Dolores Redondo (San Sebastian, 1969; homepage), Legado en los huesos [Legacy in the bones], detective: Amaia Salazar, cf. post.

Rosa Ribas (El Prat de Llobregat, 1963), comisaria Cornelia Weber-Tejedor;

Teresa Solana (Barcelona, 1962), La casa de les papallones [The butterfly house], investigator: Norma Forester;  first Spanish writer nominated for the Edgar Allen Poe awards, four titles in English available on amazon.com;

Anna Maria Villalonga (professor at U of Barcelona), Elles també maten [They {women} also kill], a study of the phenomenon.

Principal differences in comparison to male authors:

Less gore and fewer entrails. Detectives more concentrated on the details of daily life. Crimes with a social background. A bigger interest in the motivations behind the crime, the human and psychological dimensions, than in the details of the crime itself. Female murderers have different motivations than male ones: self-defence (of themselves or their families) or vengeance for suffering in the past. In general, the female detectives are not as burdened with alholism, smoking and (other) autodestructive behavior as their male counterparts. They are often “special” as to their ethnic origin, sexual behavior, education, … sometimes “exotic”. Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander is presented as a positive example.

In comparison with the Nordic countries, there are few Mediterranean female crime fiction writers. The experts consulted by Geli see the reasons for this in the Catholic tradition and, in the case of Spain, in the long lasting dictatorship that prevented authors such as P.D. James from being read (and emulated) there. In contrast to this there are a lot of male Spanish authors that have female protagonists, though Giménez Bartlett criticizes them for being created as either “vamps or über-intelligent, totally archetypical”. Female authors tend to portray their male detectives as less violent than male authors. And one still ubiquitous phenomenon: the victims are female.

Sources: El País Jan. 31, 2014 + cited websites