Jenn Díaz, an author to reckon with

Jenn Díaz (Barcelona, 1988) is a contemporary Spanish writer who gets a lot of good press. A recent interview in the Spanish Esquire magazine had this introduction:

“Everybody’s talking about Jenn Díaz in the Iberian literary circles. Of her and her four published novels at the age of only 26, a rara avis in a country in which they say there are no readers. But up to here, all normal. If we live in a throwaway world, also altars are easily disposable and recyclable. The anomaly reveals itself when one gets to know a little better the writer from Barcelona and her work. No neo-crime novels, nor porno hypes, nor absurd aspirations to resurrect (and decaffeinate) the gauche divine. Díaz writes as her elders; she doesn’t want to be neither Palahniuk nor Hornby, she looks up and only has eyes for Martín Gaite, for Matute, for Ginzbourg. The secret of her success, as that of all successes, is arcane. What makes her a candidate to endure, a long-distance runner instead of a sprinter, is precisely the timelessness of her creations.”

Belfondo (2011), El duelo y la fiesta [The duel and the feast](2012), Mujer sin hijo [Childless woman](2013) and the recently published Es un decir [As the saying goes](2014).

Of her latest novel, Es un decir, the publisher Lumen (Penguin Random House) offers this summary:

“A girl wants to grow up after the assassination of her father in a village during the post-[Spanish Civil] War years, beside an absent mother and a grandmother who hides secrets.

‘On my eleventh birthday they killed my father…

the word murdered fixed itself in my head

in the same way that these stupid flies that enter your house

and don’t know how to get out’

Mariela is about to blow the candles of a cake when suddenly she hears a gunshot. And afterwards there only remain her mother’s silence, her grandmother’s vague commentaries and the questions of this stubborn girl who insists to find out who killed her father and why, while the village is still haunted by the Civil War’s memory. Mariela, this young miss of a scraggy life, this half-made woman, enters adult life looking sideways, listening to what is said behind doors, licking river stones as if they were candy; and with her we slowly discover the hollows of life and the fatigue of having birthdays in a world where everything is as the saying goes because the truth hurts. Jenn Díaz offers us a history full of strength and irony, that immediately finds the reader’s complicity: her words reach us as if we listened to hear instead of reading, and she shows us the talent of a woman that will offer a lot to talk about.”

The rural life she describes is not totally invented as the used to spend her vacations with her grandparents in Puebla de la Calzada (Badajoz, Extremadura).


Apart from writing novels, Díaz keeps a remarkable blog -Fragmento de Interior [Interior’s fragment]- with lots of photos and author quotes, and she contributes to Jot Down magazine with articles on literature and other topics. She also contributes to  El blog de mujeres [The women’s blog] of El País, the latest article is here.

Sources: Esquire April 8, 2014, Me gusta leer (Lumen)


Snippet: Balcells & Wylie Int’l Literary Agency

Few of the details have become known so far, but apparently the veteran literary agents Carmen Balcells and Andrew Wylie signed a “memorandum of understanding” to unite their two companies. Balcells has been described as the mother of the Latin American boom“. The commentators in favour of this move think that together, these two companies will be better able to defend their authors’ interest in front of companies such as Amazon, Google, and Apple. Some authors fear that the personal relationship between the author and his/her agent will get lost or be reserved to Nobel laureates only. The two existing agencies represent authors such as “Vladimir Nabokov, Yasunari Kawabata, Jorge Luis Borges ot Italo Calvino; Nobel laureates such as García Márquez, Orhan Pamuk, Kenzaburo Oé, Czeslaw Milosz, Mario Vargas Llosa or Mo Yan; contemporary authors such as Philip Roth, Milan Kundera, Roberto Calasso, Antonio Muñoz Molina, Javier Cercas, Juan Marsé, Salman Rushdie, Roberto Bolaño, Isabel Allende, Amos Oz, Claudio Magris; and names with a great potential such as  Colum McCann, Teju Cole, Helen Oyeyemi o Chimamanda Adichie, Taiye Selasi, Paolo Giordano and a long list of Spanish-speaking authors”.

Sources: El País, PublishersLunch May 28, 2014

“Confessions” to be published in English

It had been announced for publication in 2015, Amazon already lists it for October 15, 2014: the talk is about Jaume Cabré’s Jo confesso [lit. “I confess” – Confessions] in English, a best-selling Catalan novel originally published in 2011, already translated into 14 languages, and currently being translated into 20 more. The British publisher’s pdf catalogue offers this introduction:

“At sixty and with a diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s, Adrià Ardèvol re-examins his life before his memory is systematically deleted. He recalls a love-less childhood, in which the family antique business and his father’s study become the centre of his world, where a treasured Storioni violin retains the shadows of a crime committed many years earlier. His mother, a cold, distant and pragmatic woman leaves him to his solitary games, full of unwanted questions. An accident ends the life of his enagmatic father, filling Adrià’s world with guilt, secrets and deeply troubling mysteries that take him years to uncover. – Ambitious, powerful and deeply moving, this magnificent novel addresses life’s big issues, and explores the relationship between guilt and forgiveness, between evil and redemption and, most of all, between love and pain.” offers a slightly longer text.

The Catalan publisher, Group 62 adds: “Jo confesso is a long love-letter of someone who had to play alone for many years, between old books and unconfessed secrets; of someone who feels guilty of a violent death, and of someone who doesn’t understand the evil that accompanies the history of the West.” [Unofficial translation by this blogger]

Vilaweb announced Lucia Graves as Cabre’s translator, Amazon gives the name of Mara Faye Letham. Arcadia Books, the publisher of the English version, doesn’t mention the translator at all… A quick search on Google for both of them hasn’t resulted in any clue. This blogger thinks that M. Faye Letham is the likelier candidate as she is younger and has been more prolific recently, but we might have to wait until October for the definite answer.

Where there is no doubt: the English version will be a lot cheaper than the original hardcover, especially on; but since June 2013 there has been a paperback version that makes it still cheaper to read the 1008 pages in Catalan…

More information on the writer Jaume Cabré (Barcelona, 1947) can be found at the Wikipedia and on the publishers’ pages cited below. Vilaweb had an interview with the author as well as some working sample in English.

Update: The Guardian offers this review.

Sources: Arcadia Books‘ 2014 catalogue, p. 21; Proa (Grup 62)

Snippet: Madrid Book Fair, 30 May – 15 June

In parallel to the Lisbon Book Fair, from May 30 to June 15, the 73rd edition of the Feria del Libro de Madrid [Madrid Book Fair] will take place at the Retiro park. There will be 364 pavilions hosting 508 exhibitors, among them 218 publishers headquartered in Madrid and 134 from outside the Spanish capital. This year’s motto is “Deletrear el mundo” [Spell the world]. There will be a non-stop reading of One Hundred Years of Solitude in honor of the recently deceased Gabriel García Márquez; other writers will get one-minute readings via the park’s PA system. One central topic for discussions, etc. will be the centenary of the start of World War I – in which Spain didn’t take part (at least officially, though it did as a supplier of goods to the warring coalitions, and as a base for spies). 

The official homepage has got all the details (in Spanish).

Source: La Vanguardia May 26, 2014


Snippet: Lisbon Book Fair, 29 May – 15 June

From May 29 to June 15, the 84th edition of the Feira do Livro de Lisboa [Lisbon Book Fair] will take place at the Eduardo VII park. There will be 250 colourful pavilions hosting 537 publisher labels, as well as food courts and big screens for “public viewing” of soccer matches, once the World Cup gets started. The event is organized by the APEL (Associação Portuguesa de Editores e Livreiros [Portuguese Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Association]). Mozambique and its literature will be a kind of “guest of honor”. The fairs organizers point out that this is a good opportunity to (re-)discover books that are still in publication but haven’t survived longer than two months in bookstore shelves. There will be book “happy hours”, a “literary picnic”, readings, discussions, book signings, children’s activities, etc. The official (?) homepage has not been very informative so far…

In contrast to bigger events, such as the Frankfurt book fair, southern European book fairs take place in the open -in nice parks such as Eduardo VII-, they last several weeks, and they have very relaxed opening hours: Monday to Friday 12:30 – 11pm, weekends 11 am – midnight in the case of Lisbon.

Source: Diário de Notícias May 21, 2014

Snippet: Lifetime Achievement Award to Maria Teresa Horta

The poet, writer and journalist Maria Teresa Horta (Lisbon, 1937) has been awarded with the Sociedade Portuguesa de Autores’  [SPA, Portuguese Authors’ Association] Prémio de Consagração de Carreira [Career Consecration Award] this week. According to the Wikipedia [English stub here], Horta is the author of 27 works of poetry, the latest one entitled Poemas para Leonor [Poems for Leonor, 2012] and eight novels, the last one As Luzes de Leonor [Leonor’s lights, 2011]. The jury praised the “quality, extension and representativeness” of Horta’s work. The author, who lived nearly half her life under a dictatorship, has characterized herself as a fighter for liberty, women’s rights and human rights in general.

Guernica magazine recently published an interview. lists as only title available in English the 1970s, co-authored work The Three Marias – New Portuguese Letters.

Source: Diário de Notícias May 22, 2014

Snippet: Almudena Grandes’ “Manolita’s Three Weddings”

The novel [Manolita’s Three Weddings] by Almudena Grandes (Madrid, 1960) has been the number one of the Spanish bestselling book lists for the past weeks. While researching for this post, your blogger discovered a “gold mine” as to novel summaries in English: the foreign rights pages of Grandes’ publisher Tusquets Editores. They have an alphabetical list of their authors, and one can read the summaries of their novels and see for which languages the rights have been sold or are still available.

The summary of the plot can be found here, as well as more information on the author; there is also a Wikipedia article stub.

Other novels by Grandes already available in English are: The Frozen Heart, The Wind from the East: A Novel,  and The Ages of Lulu.