Snippet: The Lisbon Route

Not a piece of Iberian fiction but a non-fiction work by an American author that sounds very interesting – Lisbon during WWII.

The publisher’s introduction is this:

“The Lisbon Route tells of the extraordinary World War II transformation of Portugal’s tranquil port city into the great escape hatch of Nazi Europe. Royalty, celebrities, diplomats, fleeing troops, and ordinary citizens desperately slogged their way across France and Spain to reach the neutral nation. Here the exiles found peace and plenty, though they often faced excruciating delays and uncertainties before they could book passage on ships or planes to their final destinations. As well as offering freedom from war, Lisbon provided spies, smugglers, relief workers, military figures, and adventurers with an avenue into the conflict and its opportunities. Ronald Weber traces the engaging stories of many of these colorful transients as they took pleasure in the city’s charm and benign climate, its ample food and drink, its gambling casino and Atlantic beaches. Yet an ever-present shadow behind the gaiety was the fragile nature of Portuguese neutrality, which at any moment the Axis or Allies might choose to end.”

The book appeared in Spanish in the spring of 2014, and the single reader’s critique is very bad… the readers of the English version seem to be quite happy with the book; there might be a reason that there is no paperback version available…

SOURCE: Ivan R. Dee (publisher)

Snippet: Prudenci Bertrana Award 2014

Antoni Pladevall (Taradell, Osona, 1961, writer and high-school teacher) won the 47th Premi Prudenci Bertrana, endowed with 30.000 EUR, for the novel El dia que vaig fer vuit anys [The day I became eight years old]. According to the author, it is a book of memories from age eight to 15, a series of intense recollections. All starts with his eighth birthday in a farmhouse in Taradell, when his god- and grandfather Ton weighed him on scales normally used for grain and assigned to him “a both physical and emotional weight”. It was as if from that day the author started to really live, to be aware of his own existence. The novel is divided into 30 short impressions that draw a portrait of this child, emotionally divided between fascination and shame, hope and fear. With indelible experiences such as a stonethrow into his sister’s left eye, the ruthless killing of scorpions in a hill in front of the house, the discovery of the first girl while he rode a bicylce, or the death of his grandfather Ton in a gardening accident. Pladevall considers the book an hommage to the generation of his parents and grandparents, who lived the greyness and imposed silence of the post-Civil War year, and a memory for the younger generations of a world that doesn’t exist any longer. The author maintains that a lot of the keys to his other books are in this work (to be published in November).

The Prudenci Bertrana is only one of several “literary prizes of Girona”. This year’s Miquel de Palol Poetry award went to Manuel Forcano (Barcelona, 1968, info) for Ciència exacta [Exact science]; the Carles Rahola Essay award went to Marta Rovira (Banyoles, 1969, sociologist, homepage) for a study that questions the official version of Spain’s “transitition” from Franco’s dictatorship to democracy. The 29th Ramon Muntaner juvenile literature award went to Francesc Puigpelat (Balaguer, 1959) for Romeo i Julieta, Segona part [Romeo and Juliet, part 2], a zombie version of Shakespeare’s drama.


SOURCE: La Vanguardia, Sept. 18, 2014

Snippet: “Tell a Story” – a project to promote literature among tourists

This blogger loves the picture of a bookvan (mobile bookstore) in Lisbon (Belém?). It made the news in the summer of 2013, as it visited different sights to promote Portuguese authors among foreign tourists:

“In Cais do Sodré the tourists can meet O Memorial do Convento [Baltasar and Blimunda] by José Saramago. In Príncipe Real it is time for Eça de Queirós (1845-1900, Wikipedia) and his classic Os Maias [The Maias]. In Belém, to come across Fernando Pessoa and his Desassossego [The Book of Disquiet]. Translated into English, French, Spanish and German, the books by José Cardoso Pires (1925-1998, Wikipedia), Jacinto Lucas Pires (Porto, 1974, +info), Gonçalo M. Tavares and Miguel Torga (1907-1995, Wikipedia) are also some of those available in this van.” (Marta Spínola Aguiar)

You can read more about the project on its website.

SOURCES: Espalha factos, Aug. 1, 2013; Tell a Story (website)

Snippets: Portuguese fiction for the fall of 2014

It has not been easy to find the information given below, and then there are paywalls

José Saramago (1922-2010, Wikipedia), Alabardas, alabardas, Espingardas, espingardas [Halberds, halberds, rifle, rifle], posthumous work on the weapons’ industry and trade. To be published simultaneously in Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and Catalan.

António Lobo Antunes (Lisbon, 1942, Wikipedia), Caminho como numa casa em chamas [I walk like a house on fire]. This book has been announced since January for publication in October but there is no detailed information yet…

Lídia Jorge (Unhos, Loures, 1946, Wikipedia), O Organista/The organist, a fable on the creation of the world, the relation between God, (Wo)Man and the Universe.

José Luís Peixoto (Galveias, Portalegre, 1974, homepage, Wikipedia), Galveias [author’s birthplace].

Ana Teresa Pereira (Funchal, Madeira, 1958), As velas da noite [Candles at night], a collection of six short stories and one play, “Harbinger”.

Gonçalo M. Tavares (Luanda, Angola, 1970, agent’s page), Uma menina está perdida no seu século à procura do pai [A girl is lost in her century in search of the father], described by the publisher as “a profound reflection on the 20th century”.

Ana Casaca (Lisboa, 1975), Viagem ao Fim do Coração [Journey to the heart’s end], “a story that covers and recreates a wonderful world of fathers and mothers, sons and brothers, hatreds and loves. It reveals the nightmare of a disease like cancer, but doesn’t surrender what is human and essential, the dream.” (publisher’s promo)

Sérgio Godinho (Porto, 1945, singer-songwriter, Wikipedia), VidaDupla [DoubleLife], a short-story collection.

José Rodrigues dos Santos (Beira, Mozambique, 1964, Wikipedia), A chave de Salomão [Solomon’s Key], sounds like Dan Brown, no further comment…

valter hugo mãe (Henrique de Carvalho, Angola, 1971, Wikipedia), O paraíso são os outros [Paradise is other people], first title of a new series of children’s books.

Álvaro Magalhães (Porto, 1951), O Estranhão [The really weird (?)], a children’s book with illustrations by Carlos J. Campos (Rio de Janeiro, 1959).

António Ramos Rosa (1924-2013), Poesia Presente – Antologia [Present poetry – Anthology], prepared by the poet’s daughter, with a preface by José Tolentino Mendonça (Machico, 1965, priest and poet).

(non-fiction:) Mário de Carvalho (Lisbon, 1944), Quem disser o contrário é porque tem razão [Anyone who says the contrary, is, because he/she is right (?)], a practical guide to fiction writing.

Blogger’s comment: Quite a few authors that might make for interesting reading…

SOURCES: Espalha Factos, Observador, both Sept. 6, 2014; Diário de Notícias, Sept. 14, 2014; Porta Editora, Sept. 22, 2014

Snippets: Catalan fiction for the fall of 2014

Maria Barbal (Tremp, 1949, Wikipedia), En la pell de l’altre [In the other’s skin], inspired by the life of Enric Marco who arrived at the presidency of the former prisoners’ association Amical Mauthausen without ever having been a concentration camp inmate but pretending to for nearly three decades.

Vicenç Villatoro (Terrassa, 1957), Un home que se’n va [A man who leaves], a novel inspired by the life of the author’s grandfather who left his native village of Castro del Río (Còrdoba, Andalucia) to emigrate to Catalonia at age 60.

Blanca Busquets (Barcelona, 1961, homepage), Paraules a mitges [Half-spoken words], a history around the failed military coup of 23 February 1981.

Eduard Márquez (Barcelona, 1960), Vint-i-nou contes menys [29 stories less], a reissue of short stories already published in two books in the 1990s, leaving out 29 published then.

Francesc Puigpelat (Balaguer, 1959), Els últims dies del general Prim [The last days of General Prim], a novel that recreates the Catalan soldier’s career and centers on his last five days of life, offering a hypothesis on the conspiracy that killed him.

Núria Pradas (Barcelona, 1954), La noia de la biblioteca [The girl of the library], a story set in the first decades of the 20th century, where a working-class girl destined for the textile mills struggles to fulfill her dream of working a the Catalan National Library, opened to the public in 1914.

Valentí Puig (Palma de Mallorca, 1949), La vida és estranya [Life is strange], presents the life of a member of the country-side aristocracy who at age 60 writes about the women he got to know, family ancestors, the world and the city of Barcelona that he doesn’t recognize as his own any longer.

Lluís Llach (Girona, 1948, a singer-songwriter, Wikipedia), Les dones de la Principal [The women of the Principal], a story around three women of three different generations, set in a wine-growing village during the Franco era.

Joan Miquel Oliver (Sóller, 1974, also a singer-songwriter, Wikipedia), Setembre, octubre i novembre [September, October, and November]. The author from Mallorca became the shadow of the free-climber Miquel Riera and offers a literary portrait of the contemporary world in the form of three months of annotations.

Joan-Daniel Bezsonoff (Perpignan, 1963), Matar De Gaulle [To kill De Gaulle], recreates the conspiracy of a group of French soldiers and civilians, resentful about independence for Algeria, that decided to kill General De Gaulle.

Maria Guasch (n.a.), Olor de clor sota la roba [The smell of chlorine inside one’s clothes], a memory of how one loves, desires or hates at age eleven.

Pilar Rahola (Barcelona, 1958, a journalist and frequent “talk-show guest”, homepage), Mariona, a novel around a woman from the Gràcia neighborhood in Barcelona who starts out as squeamish girl in a tough and repressive society, grows up with the century to become an activist participating in the fight against troop conscriptions.

[[Lluís-Anton Baulenas (Barcelona, 1958, homepage), L’últim neanderthal [The last neanderthaler], brings us closer to the love of reading bookings, especially those printed on paper. – This book is mentioned at the SOURCE, but neither on the author’s nor on the publisher’s website…!!?? ]]

Marc Pastor (Barcelona, 1977, a member of the scientific police corps), La mala dona [The bad woman], republished.

Lluís Llort (Barcelona, 1966), Herències col·laterals [Collateral inheritance], crime fiction.

Juli Alandes (Castelló de la Ribera, 1968), La mirada del cocodril [The crocodile’s gaze], crime fiction.

Josep Torrent (n.a.), La sang és més dolça que la mel [Blood is sweeter than honey], crime fiction, winner of the 1st “Agusti Vehí memorial award”.

Albert Juvany (Vic, 1974), El silenci del far [The lighthouse’s silence].

Carles Zafon (Barcelona, 1965, an endocrinologist), L’home pla [The flat man], a novel about literature that summons an author, his main character and the reader to meet each other and talk about life and love.

Antònia Carré-Pons (Terrassa, 1960, +info), Rellotges en temps de pluja [Clocks in rainy weather].

Jordi Amat, Agustí Pons (ed.), La Barcelona de Nèstor Luján, an anthology of articles on Barcelona and its cultural life written by Nèstor Luján (1922-1995, journalist).

Josep Pla (1897-1981, Wikipedia), La vida lenta [The slow life], a classic that includes three recently discovered notebooks of the years 1956, 1957 and 1964. Pla is one of this blogger’s favorite authors in Catalan.

Gaziel (1887-1964, Wikipedia), Tots els camins duen a Roma [All roads lead to Rome], memories of his formative years up to World War I, by one of the leading 20th century Catalan journalists.

Maria Mercè Marçal (1952-1998, Wikipedia), Posar per a la mort [Pose for death], diary written while dying from cancer.

Tània Juste (Barcelona, 1972), L’hospital dels pobres [The poors’ hospital], a historical novel that narrates the construction of Hospital de Sant Pau (Barcelona), the biggest modernist set of buildings of all times.

Marc Capdevila (Vic, 1966), La Bíblia de pedra [The stone bible], a combination of art and thriller around the construction of the new portal of Santa Maria of Ripoll.

Víctor Jurado (Sant Boi de Llobregat, 1993), No s’hi enterra cap traïdor [There will be buried no traitor], a novel set in Barcelona in 1714 around the Moreres (mass-) graveyard.

SOURCE: L’illa dels Llibres, August 29, 2014

Snippets: Spanish fiction for the fall of 2014

This blogger googled for news articles on the novelties to be published on the Spanish bookmarket in the fall of 2014; a lot of the works mentioned at the Sources are works by American authors translated into Spanish – shown here, with one exception, are only works originally written in Spanish; it is not exhaustive. The order is chronologically by their publishing dates; some of the original author’s comments, the literary blogger José Luis Ibáñez, are fully translated, others have been shortened:

August 27: Javier Sierra (Teruel, 1971, homepage), La pirámide inmortal [The immortal pyramid]. Starring the young Napoleon who during the Egyptian campaign, stumbles upon a pyramid that hides a life-changing secret.

September 2: Marta Fernández (Madrid, 1973, a TV newscaster), Te regalaré el mundo [I will give you the world]. Brings together the lives of an 18th century watchmaker and a 21st century journalist through a strange book. Ibáñez calls it “surprising”.

September 23: Javier Marías (Madrid, 1951, Wikipedia), Así empieza lo malo [This is how the bad begins]. After The infatuations, Marías reflects again on human and couple relationships; desire, grudge and forgiveness are three fundamental elements of an unhappy lovestory…

September 25: Gioconda Belli (Managua, Nicaragua, 1948), El intenso calor de la luna [The moon’s intensive heat]. A mature woman rediscovers sex, passion and her joie de vivre after renouncing them in favor of her kids that have left home and a husband she doesn’t feel close to any longer.

October 1: the exception: José Saramago’s (1922-2010, Wikipedia) posthumous Alabardas [Halberds], an unfinished reflection on the weapons’ industry and trade, with complementary texts by Roberto Saviano and Fernando Gómez Aguilera and illustrations by Günter Grass.

October 2: Antonio Gómez Rufo (Madrid, 1954, Wikipedia), La camarera de Bach [Bach’s chambermaid]. Centered around Madeleine, a young woman who become’s Johann Sebastian Bach’s chambermaid during the latter’s last years of life.

October 16: Félix J. Palma (Sanlúcar de Barrameda, 1968, Wikipedia), El mapa del caos [Chaos’ map]. Third part of a trilogy, an hommage to the Victorian crime literature. An adventure full of mysteries, impossible loves, action, true fantasmas and false mediums.

October: Joan Cañete (Barcelona, 1973), Eugenio García Gascón (Barcelona, 1957), two journalists specialized in the Middle East, Expediente Bagdad [Bagdad File]. A crime novel situated in Iraq during the Second Gulf War. A Bagdad policeman investigates a girl’s assassination while the hell of war breaks out around him.

November 19: Arturo Pérez-Reverte (Cartagena, 1951, Wikipedia), working title: Vida de perros (Dogs’ life). Reflections on the relationship of (wo-)man and dog, illustrated by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau (Barcelona, 1964, Wikipedia).

November 20: Juan Marsé (Barcelona, 1933, Wikipedia), Noticias felices en aviones de papel [Happy news in paper planes]. Marsé’s 14th novel, an album illustrated by María Hergueta (Valencia, 1984, homepage). Situated in Barcelona in the 1980s, the main character is an adolescent who visits a Polish neighbor with a tremendous history on her shoulders.

November: Estela Chocarro (Pamplona, 1973), El próximo funeral será el tuyo [The next funeral will be yours]. Set in a small village of Navarre, mystery, art and folk legends bring together a Gala-Dalí museum employee’s present and the years immediately after the Spanish Civil War.

Blogger’s comment: Looks like a lot of commercial “straw” and the occasional piece of literature worth reading…

SOURCES:, July 30 (i) and August 6 (ii), 2014

Snippet: new study on the Portuguese bookmarket

title: Comércio Livreiro em Portugal – Estado da Arte na segunda década do século XXI [Book trade in Portugal – State of the art in the second decade of the 21st century]

author: José Soares das Neves et al., Centro de Investigação e Estudos de Sociologia do ISCTE [ISCTE’s Center for Research and Studies in Sociology]

client: Associação Portuguesa de Editores e Livreiros (APEL) [Portuguese Association of Publishers and Booksellers]

findings: 2004: 694 bookstores with a revenue of 140.1 M EUR; 2012: 562 stores – 126.2 M EUR in revenues; the publishing industry peaked in 2008 with revenues of 404 M EUR – 2012: 356 M EUR. Fewer publishing houses. Fewer titles published until 2012, though this trend appears to have stopped. The independent bookstores complain about unfair competition by large chains such as FNAC and Betrand, though sales by “multi-entertainment stores”, hypermarkets, etc. have also gone down, peak 2009: 229 M EUR, 2012: 202 M EUR. There is a problem of piracy – still done with photocopiers. There are no easy and quick solutions. The booksellers would like to see a “level playing field” for all and clear laws on the sale of books, more coordination between those involved, and a higher appreciation for culture in general within the Portuguese society.

SOURCE: Público, Sept. 16, 2014

Third installment of Baztán trilogy to be published Nov. 25, 2014


Dolores Redondo, Ofrenda a la tormenta [Offering to the storm]

This is an approximate translation of the publisher’s information:

A woman denounces that the sudden death of her granddaughter, officially a case of sudden infant death syndrome, looks suspicious to her due to the strange behavior of the child’s father, who has been detained when he tried to steal the corpse and murmured unconnected words about surrendering his own daughter. The baby girl’s face shows some red marks that indicate that there was pressure applied to it and it seems clear that she was murdered. The grandmother talks about a magic creature of the zone, an evil being that causes the nightmares that paralyze the sleeping person and prevent them from awakening. It is the “inguma”, the being that snatches the life during sleep. The investigation of this case will take Amaia and her team to discover some irregularities in similar cases that happened in the valley in the past, too many cases for a relatively small area. And then, after being transferred by order of the judge Marquina, the assassin Berasategui is found dead in his cell, after a coma induced by a drug that someone must have given him. Thrilling and chilling, the plot accelerates to a surprising ending, in which Amaia has to face the authentic origin of the events that have devastated the Baztán valley. And meanwhile an impressive blizzard seems to want to bury a devastating truth.

SOURCE: Planeta