Snippet: Google (Spain) “doodle” rembers Concepción Arenal

“Open schools, and prisons will close.”

More information on Concepción Arenal (1820-1893) at the Wikipedia.

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María Frisa’s “survival” guides

This blogger’s first impression is that María Frisa (Barcelona, 1969), a social worker and clinical psychologist, writes a kind of Spanish “chick lit”, though he can’t tell as he hasn’t read any of her numerous books… the latest one is called Cómo sobreviví a la madre de Pavlito (con uve) [How I survived Pavlito’s (with “v”) mother].

El País offers this summary: “It’s a book of 384 pages in which one is presented with an ingenious and above all very funny portrait of the current Spanish society through the eyes of a woman: a professional, mother and spouse. Within, there occurs a wide reflection on these roles and on questions such as the family’s and one’s personal expectations, on the difficulties of reconciling the professional life with one’s personal and family life, and on the dialogue of deafs in which we convert our relationships. This new literary creation is narrated in the first person and stars María Frisa. She describes five months of her life, between February and June, when there’s the end of term festival in her younger son’s, i.e. Hugo’s school.”

The publisher offers these comments: “Are your wardrobes also always too small? Do you think that keeping a secret includes telling it to your two best friends? Have you proven that, contrary to what the experts say, it is impossible to educate your kids without shouting? Have you found out that the most important advantage of being married is that you can forget waxing? Do you prefer believing that you are swollen or that you retain liquids to admitting that you have gained weight? If your answers are affirmative, you have got a lot in common with María who, besides being the protagonist of this novel, is also a compulsive shopper, a theorist of ineffective diets, capable of dying for a good reply -though, as with you, the right reply comes to her five seconds late- and she’s always about to drown in an ocean of doubts.”

Other books by the same author:

Breve lista de mis peores defectos [A short list of my worst defects]

Uno mismo y lo inesperado [Oneself and the unexpected]

15 maneras de decir amor [15 ways to say love]

Como entonces [Like then]

(Juvenile lit:)

75 consejos para sobrevivir en el colegio [75 pieces of advice how to survive high school]

75 consejos para sobrevivir en el campamento [75 pieces of advice how to survive camp]

75 consejos para celebrar tu cumpleaños a lo grande [75 pieces of advice how to celebrate your birthday in style]

75 consejos para sobrevivir a las extraescolares [75 pieces of advice how to survive extracurricular activities]

SOURCE: El País, Jan. 19, 2015; Planeta

Snippet: Edebé prizes for best children’s and juvenile books

Edebé (publisher) awarded this year’s prizes for the following works.

Best children’s book: Rodrigo Muñoz (Madrid, 1967), El signo prohibido [The forbidden sign]. Jorge, an eleven year old boy, when confronted with the disappearance of Aleksandra, his best friend, decides to convert his life into a lipogram, to not pronounce the letter “A” until his friend reappears. The text talks about friendship, love, how to live with the absence of a loved one; but its main topic is language, because “beyond being a medium of communicaton and a mirror of the world, it is a world to be constructed and to be lived in.” (Muñoz, who won for the third time)

Best juvenile book: Care Santos (homepage, Wikipedia), Mentida [Lie]. Her protagonist is called Xènia, a normal adolescent who exchanges emails with a guy called Marcel on the basis that both of them have read Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye; a plot that allows Santos to talk about the dangers of the Internet and about the distance between two radically different worlds. The two establish a strange relationship, and Xènia discovers very quickly that what Marcel told her is not true. “Why does he lie? The answer is the novel’s reason,” Santos declared before revealing that her male protagonist is a guy condemned at age 14 for first degree murder. The author explained that the idea for her book came from an aggression in the form of a young guy kicking a girl in the Barcelona subway. When she found out the name of the aggressor, a minor, the author invenstigated on his past and found out that he had been abandoned by his mother and raised by a sort of uncle: “this boy had a terrible personal and family history. […] I was attracted to talk about the penal and social treatment we give to minors.” (Santos) Another influence was a poem by Charles Bukowski, himself with a dysfunctional family background, that reading had saved his life. “This library prevented that he evolved into somebody who didn’t have any reason to live. It’s a hymn to what culture can do for a person.” (Santos)

SOURCE: La Vanguardia, Jan. 28, 2015

Snippet: 29/01 – 07/02: BCNegra 2015 – 10th edition of Barcelona Crime Novel Week

Due to the success of its past editions, the organizers have changed the venue of most of the events to accommodate bigger audiences; the 10th edition of Bcnegra [“Black Barcelona”, as the genre is called “novel·la/novela negra” in Catalan/Spanish] will take place at the Conservatori del Liceu. The event will start with the award of the revived Crims de Tinta [Ink crimes] prize. The Pepe Carvalho prize (no money) will be awarded on 5 February to Alicia Giménez Bartlett, according to Núria Escur, La Vanguardia, “currently the country’s most relevant crime author.”

The most important international authors who present their works there this time are Sue Grafton, Philip Kerr, Zygmunt Miloszewski and Anne Perry. Among the local names that have been reedited, are still working, or have been discovered recently are Carlos Pérez Merino, Belén Gopegui, Lluís Llort, Toni Hill and David Llorente.

This blog will try to present them and their works individually in case it hasn’t done so yet.

SOURCE: La Vanguardia (printed edition), Jan. 28, 2015, pp. 30-31

Holocaust memorial day – Spaniards in Nazi concentration camps

Though not a strictly literary matter, on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz this blogger can’t help jotting down a few thoughts on Spaniards and Nazi concentration camps. Before I came to the Iberian peninsula I thought that Spain played only a minor role in World War II and didn’t think about possible Spanish victims of the German extermination machinery. Then I learned (summarized very briefly) that the German airforce, in support of the rebels around Franco, had used Spain as “training ground” during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39); that Franco afterwards had to pay back Hitler with raw material deliveries; and that the relation between the two dictators was such that a lot of Spaniards who had opposed Franco and fled to neighboring France at the end of the Civil War, shortly afterwards, when France had been “overrun” by the German army, ended up in Nazi concentration camps. A lot of them had joined the French army, and Franco did not consider them Spanish any longer.

I don’t know if any came as far east as Auschwitz; according to the Spanish Wikipedia, the camp of Mauthausen-Gusen (Austria) is considered “the camp of the Spanish”, as it were mainly Spanish bricklayers who built it and as around 7.300 of its inmates came from Spain. One of them was the Catalan photographer Francesc Boix (1920-1951; Wikipedia) whose photos helped in the prosecution of war criminals. The concentration camp of Ravensbrück (Germany) was the destiny of 400 women from Spain; one of the few survivors is Neus Català (Els Guiamets, 1915), whose life experience was put into literary form by Carme Martí in Un cel de plom [A sky of lead]. One of the best-known Spanish writers who had been at the Buchenwald concentration camp (near Weimar, Germany) was Jorge Semprún (1923-2011; Wikipedia). The Long Voyage and Literature Or Life, among others, reflect on this experience. The Wikipedia article on Mauthausen gives a total of approximately 10,000 Spaniards who ended up in Nazi concentration camps.

The Spanish ministry of culture published in 2006 Libro Memorial: Españoles deportados a los campos nazis 1940-1945 [Memorial book: Spanish deported to the Nazi camps] by Benito Bermejo and Sandra Checa that was meant to list all of them.

A lot of information on the Holocaust memorial day in general can be found at the pages of The Guardian.

Snippet: The Quixote Year, a regional affair

2015 marks the 4th centenary of the publication of the second part of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quijote de la Mancha (Wikipedia). Somebody had the idea to declare it the Quixote Year and have special events around Cervantes, his work, the locations, etc. The museum and library dedicated to the Quixote, situated in Ciudad Real, were remodeled and recently have been reopened to the public (English info; museum website). The Museum of Santa Cruz in Toledo (website) will have two special exhibitions; and there will be opera, concerts, sports (sic!) and events to promote reading. But apparently it is meant for Spanish speakers only as this blogger has not been able to find any information in English by Castilla-La Mancha’s regional government…

SOURCE: El País, Jan. 23, 2015