Snippet: Gabriel García Márquez and Barcelona

Finally and posthumously, the city of Barcelona will honor the Colombian writer who lived there for seven years: probably the name of Gabriel García Márquez will be added to the name of an existing public library (up to now named only after the district where it is – there are new libraries under construction but they already have their names fixed…).

Carles Geli has written a fine article in El País on Gabo’s stay in Barcelona thatbegan on November 4, 1967 and lasted for seven years. The writer came accompanied by his wife and two small children. They started off in the humble Gràcia district, with little money as One Hundred Years of Solitude had not become a worldwide best-seller yet. But this changed quickly, the family moved to the posh Sarrià district, and the kids went to the private Kensington School and befriended the offspring of Mario Vargas Llosa who also lived there. García Márquez worked hard, clothed in a mechanic’s overall, and studied the Franco regime’s dawn for the following novel, The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975). Geli describes the important role of García Márquez’ agent, Carmen Balcells, and the writers life as part of Barcelona’s gauche divine of that time.

El País offers a wide selection of articles on the deceased author.


Sources: El País, April 18, 2014; La Vanguardia (includes video), April 28, 2014


Critics’ prize for Catalan novel to Pep Coll

Last Friday the Asociación Española de Críticos Literarios [Spanish association of literary critics] and their Catalan partners (as well as the Basque and Galician ones) revealed the award winners for the best works of 2013 in Spain’s four official languages. Rafael Chirbes (cf. older post) was declared winner in Spanish, and Pep Coll’s Dos taüts negres i dos de blancs [Two black coffins and two white ones] was declared best novel in Catalan.

The publisher’s description reads like this: The massacre of a tenant farmer family in the village of Carreu in 1943 shocked the surrounding settlements and neighboring villages of the Pallars Jussà district. But the news of this multiple assassination hardly made it any farther. In a time in which there had to be presented the image of a new Spain as a paradise of peace, the censors prevented any press coverage. Seventy years later Pep Coll investigates the secrets of this terrifying event that marked his infancy at Pessonada [village name]. Initially, the story is very similar to that of the famous Kansas massacre (cf. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood), but the consequences of the Pallars’ crime were diametrically opposed: the press forgot the case, and the Franco regime’s justice system could or did not want to resolve it. Starting with the biographic exposition of the real persons involved in the events, Pep Coll offers an exceptional, full and absorbing novel. Without a doubt his most personal work.

More on Pep Coll (Pessonada, Pallars Jussà [district], 1949) in English can be found at the website of the Association of Catalan Language Writers. Comprehensive bibliographical information can be found in the Wikipedia article in Catalan.

This blogger read Coll’s Les senyoretes de Lourdes [The dames from Lourdes] a few years ago and liked it very much as Coll is very good at recreating the places and atmospheres of the stories he tells.

Source: Grup 62 page, consulted April 28, 2014

Snippet: Literary guild’s award to M. de Fátima Bonifácio

Portugal does not seem to be as “congested” with literary prizes as neighboring Spain. This week, the Prémio Grémio Literário 2013 [Literary guild award] was awarded to the historian Maria de Fátima Bonfácio (*1948) for Um homem singular – Rodrigo da Fonseca Magalhães 1787-1858 [A singular man, a political biography of RdFM]. The prize is for works by Portuguese authors on 19th century topics, and it is endowed with 1,500 EUR plus a bronze statue made by José de Guimarães. The jury praised the book as an excellent political biography on one of the fundamental characters of mid-19th century Portugal.

Further bibliographical information on Maria de Fátima Bonfácio can be found in the Portuguese Wikipedia article.

Source: Público, April 23, 2014

Snippet: Tordo’s “Lovers’ involuntary biography”

Published around two weeks ago, Joao Tordo’s Biografia involuntária dos amantes [Lovers’ involuntary biography] is a fictional exercize and reflection on the weirdness caused by “the other”. A car accident involving the death of a wild boar leads to a very personal conversation between two fellow travelers (no double meaning intended here), a poet called Saldaña Paris and the narrator. The narrator gets to know the bitterness of the poet and his (?) relationship to a somewhat mysterious lover called Teresa. To understand and “save” him, the narrator has to leave his own “comfort zone” and question himself to understand the other’s suffering. Narrated in a more complex manner than Tordo’s previous novels, this one appears to make for a more difficult, but according to Mário Rufino worthwhile reading experience. [There might be errors due this this blogger’s limited knowledge of Portuguese…]

Source: P3, Público, April 14, 2014

International Book Day – Shakespeare Day

The sun is shining again in Catalonia on book and rose buyers to celebrate their patron saint Jordi (George). They will be largely unaware of Shakespeare’s 450th anniversary (cf. The Guardian for it’s coverage around Shakespeare Day) but might pick up a book of another of the great writers of all times. Due to his recent death, book sellers have noted an increased interest in novels written by Gabriel García Márquez (“Gabo“, 1927-2014). Last year’s Saint George’s saw a heated debate on so-called “mediatic” writers (TV presenters, actors, models, etc.) and if their book sales should be counted on the same list as those of “literary” writers – if this blogger is informed correctly, this year there will be no official lists at all… this year’s likely best-sellers are the latest works of Jonas Jonasson, Almudena Grandes, and Marta Rojals.

P.S.: In non-fiction, the sales centered around books on the year 1714 (fall of Barcelona, beginning of Bourbon Spanish dominance over Catalonia) and those discussing the advantages or disadvantages of Catalan independence.

P.P.S.: More information on Sant Jordi celebrations in Brooklyn and other places from Vilaweb here.

102_2205 cartell st jordi

Snippet: “Microbookstores” of Gràcia, BCN

In contrast to the news about closures of traditional bookstores, a short article in La Vanguardia comments on a positive phenomenon: small, independent, highly specialized bookstores, located in the Gràcia district of Barcelona and associated in the Llibreters de Gràcia [Gràcia booksellers] organization (website that lists and locates them). Apart from their specializations the “microbookstores” concentrate on “pampering” their customers with personalized service and numerous cultural events. Some examples are Aeroteca that specializes in aviation, Casa Anita (children’s + juvenile), Haiku (Japanese books + goods), Hibernian Books (2nd hand English), or Los Ángeles Llibreria (self help)… A total of more than 40 already according to the source.

Source: La Vanguardia, April 16, 2014

Snippet: Vicenç Pagès Jordà, “Frontier days”

Another recommendation in the news for Sant Jordi -and winner of the homonymous literary award for 2013- has been Vicenç Pagès Jordà’s Dies de frontera [Frontier days].

For more information cf. an older blog article (there was no book cover yet then).

Vicenç Pagès Jordà (Figueres, 1963) is a writer, critic and teacher at the Ramon Llull University. He is the author of 15 books. His webpage offers some writing samples in English.