Snippet: Ana María Matute, Writer, Dies at 88

More biographic and bibliographic information: Wikipedia article.

Source: NPR blog, June 26, 2014


Snippet: José Eduardo Agualusa’s “Queen Ginga”

The novel A Rainha Ginga [Queen Ginga, and how Africans invented the world] by José Eduardo Agualusa (Huambo, Angola, 1960) was presented on June 6 in Lisbon. The publisher’s summary reads like this: “… A Rainha Ginga narrates the fantastic life of Dame Ana de Sousa, Queen Ginga (1583-1663), whose real title in the quimbundo language, “Ngola”, gave rise to the Portuguese name for this region of Africa. It is a story of a relationship of love and permanent fighting between Angola and Portugal, explained by a priest from Pernambuco [Brazil] who crossed the sea and remembers fantastic and forgotten character of our history – having as a central element Queen Ginga and her cultural, religious, ethnic and sexual significance for today’s world.”

The author’s English homepage has more biographical  and bibliographical information and states that his works have been translated into 25 languages. lists Rainy Season, Creole, My Father’s Wives and The Book of Chameleons as available in English.

Sources: Quetzal Editores, Diário de Notícias June 6, 2014


Snippet: St. Joan prize 2014 to Melcior Comes

The 34th Premi BBVA Sant Joan [Saint John’s prize] for Catalan literature, endowed with 35.000 EUR, has been awarded to the writer and teacher Melcior Comes (Sa Pobla, Mallorca, 1980) for his novel Hotel Indira (to be published  this fall by Grup 62). According to the news, the book narrates how a failed writer called Nico returns to Mallorca to work in an old family hotel that is as decaying as his own life and where he falls in love with a married woman. A crazy love story of a night porter during winter, when life on the island becomes desolate; full of errors, mysteries and lies. Narrated against the background of political and economic corruption that also have become characteristic of this major of the Balearic islands.


Jean-Christophe Rufin walking the Camino de Santiago

A best-seller in France,  Immortelle Randonnée : Compostelle malgré moi by Jean-Christophe Rufin (Bourges, 1952; Wikipedia) has now been published in Spain as El Camino Inmortal [The immortal way].

The publisher has this to say:  “An unforgettable journey that invites to reflect and search for one’s self. The Camino de Santiago is an alchemy of time on the soul, a journey that is each year begun by hundreds of thousands of people.  Jean-Christophe Rufin undertakes one of the great travel stories of our times, in which the prestigious novelist, academic and diplomat narrates his 800 km walk on the Camino del Norte to Santiago de Compostela. On the way, the physical experience transforms into a reflection that invites to search for one’s self and to lead a full and conscious life beyond the trivial. This unusual pilgrim turns into a lucid observer who portrays with a unique sense of humor his passage along the Basque and Cantabrian coasts until reaching the Galician mountains. Colorful portraits, funny anecdotes, a delicious exercise in self-criticism for those looking for nothing and who are moved by the passion of walking on.”

A Spanish review describes it as “a refreshing and unabashed tale of the millenary pilgrimage, neither a religious work nor an exaltation of the St. James’ Way’s passion. Full of anecdotes, characters, reflections and landscapes -from the most beautiful picture postcards to massified highways and housing developments- it is written in a burlesque tone that propelled it to be the second most sold book in France in 2013.”

El Camino de Santiago [St. James’ Way; Wikipedia] has inspired a lot of writers, e.g. Cees Noteboom, Roads to Santiago – and others, who are crowding out real literature, such as the German TV presenter Hape Kerkeling with Ich bin dann mal weg [I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago].


Sources: El País June 10, 2014, Duomo Ediciones


Snippet: Aurora Egido takes her seat at the RAE

The philologist Aurora Egido (Molina de Aragón, Guadalajara, 1946) became only the 9th woman to enter the Real Academia Española [Royal Spanish Academy, Wikipedia], the 300-year-old institution of 46 members watching over the Spanish language.  Egido is a specialist of the Siglo del Oro [Spanish Golden Age, Wikipedia] and centered her traditional entry lecture on Baltasar Gracián (1601-1658, Wikipedia). In the past she headed the Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas [International Hispanists’ Association, official website].

In a recent telephone interview, Egido said:

“Those err who only look for a practical utility in teaching. There are things that are priceless such as culture; the joy given by literature is profitable in itself. Culture makes us all better in all senses, in the aesthetic and the moral.”


Sources: El País June 8, 2014, RAE

Snippet: Centenary of the Biblioteca de Catalunya

(c) BNC 2014

The Biblioteca de Catalunya [(National) Library of Catalonia] recently celebrated its first century as a public institution. Its mission is to preserve the Catalan cultural heritage, so far mainly in written or printed form, and to spread the knowledge about it. Its stock contains about 3.7 M documents, not counting those that originated on the Internet, and it is headquartered at the former Hospital de la Santa Creu in Barcelona.

Sources: La Vanguardia June 5 , 2014, BC homepage

Xavi Ayén’s “These boom years”

In early January 2014, the culture journalist Xavi Ayén (Barcelona, 1969) was declared the winner of the Gaziel Award 2013 for Biographies and Memories for his book Aquellos años del boom: García Márquez, Vargas Llosa y el grupo de amigos que lo cambiaron todo [These boom years: GM, VL and the group of friends who changed everything]. At that time the book was announced for April -to make the  St. George’s book sales-, but it took until late May to reach the bookstores.

The publisher’s summary of this exhaustive and monumental study (880 p.) on the Latin American literature’s boom years reads like this:

“There are no commemorative plaques, but the most important movement in Spanish literature in the 20th century unfolded from Barcelona between 1967 and 1976. The Latin American boom [English in the original] is in equal measure a crossing of revolutionary solidarities and a polyphonic phenomenon that articulated itself in the Catalan city by the light of publishers, literary agents and in bars where the Franco dictatorship became increasingly fragile. There are not only interviews with the protagonists, but one can also find an abundance of documents unknown before and crossed tales of a collective memory.”

As Llàtzer Moix commented, the book relates the interaction of four Bs: [Carlos] Barral [publisher], [Carmen] Balcells [literary agent, “Mamá grand”], the Bearded guys of the Cuban revolution and Barcelona. For ten years, Ayén travelled all over the Americas and Spain to talk to the involved, visit archives, study correspondences, … to prove the conviction that “the boom, whose existence some still deny, was not a commercial label but a group of writers who, in spite of the diversity of their propositions, shared friendship, strategy, places of residence, interests, disputes, journeys around Spain, cruises and hobbies. It is not accidental that some critics would call them a mafia.” The boom lasted until the writers moved away from Barcelona to different places and definitely ended in February 1976 when Vargas Llosa’s fist hit Gárcia Márquez’ left eye after a discussion on an indiscretion of the latter.

One of the anecdotes Ayén explains of the making of of his book  is how, with the help of the agent Balcells and a heavy load of meaty Christmas presents, he even managed to interview the late García Márquez in Mexico [2005], after years of not giving any interviews and confessing to Ayén that he had given up writing.

Update: In their reviews for the La Vanguardia supplement Culturas (June 18, 2014) Robert Saladrigas stresses that there were a lot of other authors beside García Márquez and Vargas Llosa, such as José Donoso, Jorge Edwards, Sergio Pitol, Nélida Piñon, Mauricio Wacquez, Julio Cortázar; and J.A. Masoliver Ródenas names a second publisher of importance, i.e. Sudamericana, and points out that the boom was not limited to Barcelona, but that its protagonists also met in Paris, Mexico City, London, Havana, Calafell and Cadaqués – the latter two Catalan beach towns, Cadaqués a favorite of the gauche divine. Masoliver Ródenas recommends Joaquín Marco, Jordi Gracia, La llegada de los bárbaros [The barbars’ arrival, 2004] to those interested in the literary criticism of the boom works.

Sources: RBA (publisher), La Vanguardia January 11, 2014, EFE June 3, 2014