Snippet: Jordi Nopca’s “Come home”

Jordi Nopca (Barcelona, 1983), Puja a casa [Come home]; his second book, a collection of ten stories about contemporary dilemmas. Documenta prize 2014.

The publisher’s summary:

A graduate of Art History who works in a shopping center and is captivated by a customer who brings her cups of hot chocolate; a dogs’ hairdresser who tries to overcome a failed love; a writer and his usual translator have dinner in a restaurant without being able to dissimulate old and new tensions; a middle-aged couple plans a trip to Switzerland that will have a sinister ending; a man of Chinese origin who owns a bar in the Les Corts neighborhood faces raw reality and his own prejudices. These are some of the stories of Puja a casa, a book that with precision and doses of humor portrays the inexhaustable world of couples in contemporary Barcelona, in which the characters suffer from the havoc of the economic crisis and the vital desorientation syndrome.

From a critic’s opinion:

[…] Nopca doesn’t spare responsibilities to the people he portrays. He paints them enchanted and inconsistent, always about to find the saving excuse. … There are dozens of malicious and humorous wedges that make you stick with the story. One of Puja a casa‘s trumps is the narrator’s voice, the capacity to make appear in a f***ed up situation a song by the Spice Girls, an episode of Doraemon or a manga version of Heidi, that act as a decompression valve. … a well-tuned book with a lot of registers. … Some of the endings are a little weak, … Everybody constructs the reality that suits him/her best. Passed through Nopca’s filter, they make an attractive and well-written fresco.

Julià Guillamon, La Vanguardia

SOURCE: L’Altra Editorial; “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, March 28, 2015, p. 7 [printed edition]

Snippet: Rafael Reig’s “Fallen Tree”

Rafael Reig, Un árbol caído [A fallen tree], 2015.

Publisher’s summary:

In 1979, a group of friendly families, gathered in the social club El Tomillar [the thyme plot], comment on the return of an old acquaintance, Luis Lamana, who will upset the residential area’s life. They all know each other because they were member of parties that fought the Franco regime, and because some of them were in the same cell. 25 years later, the son of one of them, Julián, Johnny to his friends, sets out to reconstruct what became of them, of their children, and of their successful later professional careers, some of them party affiliates, others working for big companies or trying out a literary career. While he narrates the families’ and their children’s destinies, Julián wants to understand a lot of dark spots: who betrayed his mother and others in the 1960s, why did Lamana return precisely that year, how did those moments of expectancy and aparent happiness of 1979 break down, and why haven’t he and his friends managed to find their place in the world.

In his inquiry, Julián is also threshing a game of chess that he found written down in a notebook, a game that one spring afternoon of that year was played by Alejandro Urrutia and Pablo Poveda. As a metaphor of the decisions, triumphs, defeats of a group of friends, maybe of a country.

A critic’s comments:

A revision of Spain’s recent past by a writer with a willingness to transgress. A convoluted plot and a display of wit.

[Before the background of well-known events of recent Spanish history] we witness the encounter and disagreement of two generations within a convoluted plot with characters that appear and disappear in an endless chain of relationships.

[…] there is an impressive internal coherence and a chronologically limited structure, from 1962 to 2003, […]

J.A. Masoliver Ródenas, La Vanguardia

Some biographical information on the author from the publisher.

SOURCE: Tusquets; “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, March 21, 2015, p. 10 [printed edition]

Joan Carreras’ “Black Eagle” (premi Sant Jordi)

It’s Joan Carreras’ (Barcelona, 1962) sixth novel and it has won one of the most important literary prizes for novels written in Catalan, the 2014 Premi Sant Jordi, L’àguila negra [The Black Eagle].

The publisher’s summary:

On the verge of becoming 70, deprived of the routines of work and family, Marià Solvell decides to settle the debt he has got with the past. To do this, he goes to a nudist camp for a few days. He wants to liberate himself of all the nuisances he has acquired during the years and recover that which remains, inside himself, of the dentist devoted to reconstruct damaged pieces, of the young man trapped in a tumultous sexual relationship and of the boy that could not know which changes he would witness, during the 1960s and 70s, in a Barcelona that barely opened its eyes.

L’àguila negra is not an epic about heros that oppose the Franco dictatorship, but a novel that portrays the normal people: the novel about those who tried to live with enthusiasm and fullness in a country like themselves, of an acquiescent character. Joan Carreras proposes an emotive journey that bring us, from surprise to surprise, from the streetcar strike of 1951 up to the time of the big independence demonstration of 2012.

L’àguila negra no és una epopeia d’herois que s’oposen a la dictadura de Franco, sinó una novel·la que retrata la gent normal: la novel·la dels que van provar de viure amb entusiasme i plenitud en un país com ells, de tarannà acomodatici. Joan Carreras ens proposa un recorregut emotiu que ens porta, de sorpresa en sorpresa, des de la vaga de tramvies del 1951 fins més enllà de la gran manifestació independentista del 2012.

(The novel’s title is an allusion to a song sung by Barbara (French) and Maria del Mar Bonet (Catalan).)

From a review:

[…] a novel about lost illusions, an itinerary through the biography of a man without qualities who … embodies a kind of generational sadness linked to dentistry. Against the epics of the transition [from the Franco dictatorship to democracy] … Carreras describes some Catalans who distance themselves from their parents because that is what one has to do, who make their revolution (without politics, based on personal freedom and sexual transgression) and from a certain moment crash the boat of love against daily life, … Later come the misfortunes … Joan Carreras and Vicenç Pagès Jordà, …, portray the flat Catalonia, the accommodative one. In Carreras’ case with well explained details of bourgeois life …

Julià Guillamon, La Vanguardia

For more information on Carreras’ earlier novel Cafè Barcelona, cf. this post.

SOURCE: Grup 62; “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, March 14, 2015, pp. 10-11 [printed edition]

Snippet: March 18 – 22, Kosmopolis 2015 lit festival, Barcelona

A truly international literature festival in the Catalan capital that has received very little advance attention by the local media. Among the guests there will be Jon Lee Anderson, Javier Cercas, Jenn Díaz, David Grossman, Rachel Kushner, Jordi Puntí, Llucia Ramis, Taiye Selasi, and William T. Vollmann.

More information and the full program at the festival’s homepage.

SOURCE: “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, March 14, 2015, pp. 14-15 [printed edition]

Snippet: Pérez-Reverte’s “Good Men”

An interesting subject, that of Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s latest novel, Hombres buenos [Good men], to be published in Spain on March 12, 2015.

The publisher’s summary:

“In Spain, in times of darkness, there were always good men who, guided by Reason, fought to bring enlightenment and progress to their compatriots. And there was no lack of those who tried to prevent them from doing it.” A. P.-R.

At the end of the 18th century, when two members of the Royal Spanish Academy, the librarian H. Molina and the admiral P. Zárate, received from their colleagues the assignment to travel to Paris and to buy in a quasi clandestine manner the 28 volumes of D’Alembert’s and Diderot’s Encyclopédie, that was prohibited in Spain, nobody could suspect that the two academics were to face a dangerous succession of intrigues, a journey of uncertainties and shocks, that would bring them, on roads infested by bandits and uncomfortable guesthouses, from Carlos III’s enlightened Madrid to the Paris of coffee houses, salons, philosophical debates, libertine life and political agitation on the eve of the French Revolution. Based on real facts and figures, rigorously documented, moving and fascinating on every page, Hombres buenos tells the heroic adventure of those who, guided by the lights of Reason, tried to change the world with books, when the future cornered the old ideas and the desire of freedom staggered established thrones and worlds.

Apart from the story set in the 18th century, there is a parallel one of the present, that shows the details of the author’s historical investigation with the help of scholars, specialists, bibliophile dealers and friends.

“… beats full of life and confirms that there are novels that make us understand the past’s events better than substantial academic tracts.” Enrique Turpin, La Vanguardia

SOURCE: Alfaguara; “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, March 7, 2015, pp. 4-6 [printed edition]

Milena Busquets’ “This too shall pass” [Tambíen esto pasará]

The second novel of the writer, archeologist and publisher Esther Tusquets’ daughter Milena Busquets (Barcelona, 1972) has been the number one of La Vanguardia‘s Spanish and Catalan bestsellers’ list for a few weeks in early 2015.

The publisher’s summary reads like this:

When she was a child, to help her to get over her father’s death, Blanca was told a Chinese tale by her mother. A tale about a mighty emperor who summoned the wise men and asked them for a phrase that could serve in all imaginable situations. After a few month of deliberation, the wise men came before the emperor with this phrase: “This too shall pass.” And the mother added: “Pain and grief will pass, as will pass euphoria and happiness.” Now it is Blanca’s mother who has died and this novel, that starts and ends in a cemetery, talks about the pain of loss, of the absence’s tearing. But in front of this pain there remain the memory of the lived and how much she learned, and there gains momentum the reaffirmation of life through sex, friends, the children and the men who have been and are important for Blanca who affirms: “Lightness is a form of elegance. To live with lightness and happiness is very difficult.” This and other phrases and the novel’s tone, far away from any concession to the conventional, evoque Françoice Sagan’s Bonjour tristesse that dazzled many (and scandalized quite a few) when it was published in 1954. All of this during one summer at Cadaqués with its indomitable landscapes and intense Mediterranean light that bathes it all.

Milena Busquets transforms personal experiences into literature and starting out from the intimate achieves a novel that breaks boundaries and that is being translated with unusual speed into the main languages, such as English, French, German, Italian and Portuguese. And she achieves it because through Blanca’s story and her mother’s disease and death, through the relationships with her lovers and her friends, marvelously combining depth and lightness, she talks to us about universal topics: pain and love, fear and desire, sadness and laughter, the desolation and beauty of a landscape in which one fleetingly glimpses at the dead mother walking by the sea, because those we have loved cannot just disappear.

The book will be published in English by Harvill Secker (UK) and Hogarth Press (US).

SOURCE: Anagrama

Snippet: Cantavella’s homage to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade

“Guided by the memories, an American veteran of the Spanish Civil War, Sarah -his granddaughter- and Joan listen fascinated to the anecdotes told by the affable Raymond. We enter an emotive story where the epic memory and the war’s scars melt; a deserved homage to the thousands of men and women who defended freedom with their lives. We see a new Jordi Cantavella (Barcelona, 1967), who leaves behind humour and concocts a historical novel that shows solid documentation work.”

The Wikipedia has got this article on the brigade.

SOURCE: “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, Feb. 28, 2015, p. 12 [printed edition]; Penguin Random House