Snippet: El País on the closure of Café Comercial

“Madrid’s oldest coffeehouse, Café Comercial, closes down after 128 years,” reads the title of El País‘ news story.

SOURCE: El País, July 27, 2015


Snippet: “Love in the times of smallpox” – Moro: A flor de piel (Skin deep)

Javier Moro, A flor de piel [Skin deep], 2015, 496 p.

Publisher’s summary in English:

“On 30 November, 1803, a corvette sets sail from the port of La Coruña amidst cheers and applause. It holds twenty-two orphaned children whose mission consists of bringing the recently discovered smallpox vaccination to the overseas territories. They are accompanied by Isabel Zendal, who is there to take care of them. The heroes of this hare-brained expedition, which is led by the doctor Francisco Xavier Balmis and his assistant Josep Salvany, will have to face down storms and shipwrecks, the opposition of the clergy, the corruption of officials and the greed of those seeking to profit at the expense of the most vulnerable.

If this adventure eventually became the greatest humanitarian feat in History, it was down not just to the courage of the children entrusted with saving the lives of so many people, but also the determination of the two leaders, fearless men fighting for the love of the only woman on board.”

The critic Ignacio Terzano thinks that the protagonists’ characterizations are somewhat flat and that [the best-selling author] Moro presents historical facts rather than elaborate fiction in order to tell a great story of unusual charity.

SOURCE: Planeta (publisher); review by I. Terzano, “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, July 25, 2015, p. 10 (printed edition)

Snippet: gloomy feelings among the literati in Spain (summer 2015)

The culture journalist Antonio Iturbe (Zaragoza, 1967; blog (Spanish)) entitled his weekly column llibrescopi [bookscope] “‘Ciao’, Literatura” and had some gloomy observations, excerpts here:

In a kingdom where the book industry generates 0.7% of GDP … the Administration treats the book sector with monumental contempt. I receive a note signed by teachers from two high schools in Barcelona in which they explain that, following the advice of the [controversial education law] LOMCE, they have shaved the subjects of Spanish and Catalan literature. Up to now in the Social Science and Humanities curriculum, these were subjects of four hours weekly. In the coming school year “they are reduced to two hours weekly and, what is more, they do not count for the high school leaving exam …; thus, the possibilities that they are chosen by the students have been reduced considerably.” [The teachers want a correction of the law] so that literature recovers the status that corresponds to it -for obvious reasons- in a Humanities study plan. Here, what should be obvious, is never so. The politicians think that the fostering of reading consists of programming four spots per year with a nice slogan.

[Iturbe continues with the conversation he had with the president of the Spanish publisher’s federation, Daniel Fernández.] The turnover of the book sector has shrunk by 33% between 2010 and 2014. [Fernández:] “we are bigger than the movie industry, but largely ignored.” And with reference to support for books and for their academic importance: “The societies that have the highest reading indices are those with the highest prosperity indices. The big failure of [the Spanish] democracy is that after 40 years we are bigger, richer and even more tattooed… but we are not more cultivated nor reading more. The thing is that 35% of the population never ever read a book. …”

[Fernández points to the big problem of piracy of digital content in Spain, and he doesn’t understand that politicians have been able to force people to drive a motorcycle wearing a helmet or to smoke outside of restaurants, but are not able to stop online piracy, out of fear of losing votes in the following elections, according to Fernández.]

SOURCE: A. Iturbe, “”‘Ciao’, Literatura””, “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, July 4, 2015, p. 14 (printed edition)

Snippet: Albert Chillón on the relationship between journalism and literature

Albert Chillón, La palabra facticia. Literatura, periodismo y comunicación [The factual/fictional word. Literature, journalism and communication], 2015, 526 p.

Publisher’s description:

Straddling between literature, journalism and audio-visual communication, very different expressive modes integrate the contemporary word “facticia” [according to this blogger’s understanding a mix of the words “factual” and “fictional” (“ficticia” in Spanish)] -improperly called “non-fiction”-, whose mimetic vocation looks to give testimony, through witnesses or by documentary, of realities that are happening. “Facticia”, because it is a mimesis of true intention and truthseeking procedure, but still mimesis; because it puts the social facts (factum) into words; and because in doing so it does not limit itself to their referral, but it gives them workmanship.

It thus attracts the attention that the literary studies as well as the self-styled sciences of communication have tended to ignore this decisive scope, that this work’s matrix, Literatura y periodismo. Una tradición de relaciones promiscuas [Literature and journalism. A tradition of promiscuous relations], tackled in 1999 in a systematic and pioneering way. Since its publication, the book has been recognized as an essential reference by numerous Latin American and Spanish academics and as a shared source of inspiration by a lot of journalists on both sides of the Atlantic. 15 years have passed though, and that volume has grown -the same tree whose trunk adds concentric successive rings- to become the one that the readers hold in their hands: not simply a second edition, but a genuine, notably enlarged and updated version.

As was the aim of its matrix, La palabra facticia. Literatura, periodismo y comunicación explores from a comparative point of view the multiple links between the journalistic culture and the literary. Even though now it widens its focus to encompass the neighboring audiovisual and digital narratives -whose documentary and testimonial tributaries, added to the traditional journalistic literature and to the most innovative currents of literary journalism, form the vast flow of the workd “facticia” of our days.

The readers can find a lot of the old book in the new one, so that they can get to know the inherited traditions as well as the most recent tendencies. But they can also venture into an initial theory section that far exceeds the original -that the novelty and marrow of this version-, consegrated to the ways in which post-modernity has encouraged the rise of the “facticial” narratives as their hybridization with the ficticious ones; to the vast and subtle influence of tradition in the journalistic and mediatic imagery; to the incidence of the linguistic turn in the understanding of communication, literature and journalism; and finally to the same workmanship of social acts, from now on understood as constructions of meaning and not as simple things.

Albert Chillón (Barcelona, 1960), essayist and writer, is professor of Communication Theory and director of the Master in Communication, Journalism and Letters of the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. …

SOURCE: UAB (publisher)