Snippet: Antoni Gual’s “Locus”

Antoni Gual, Locus [Latin, “place”], La Campana, 2015, 408 p.

Publisher’s summary:

With Locus you are sure to laugh, because the manner of seeing and narrating the world of its author, Antoni Gual, is uniquely funny. The narrator is a young neurotic who doesn’t know exactly where he is going and who continually meets people who are worse off than he, in a parade of quirky and amazing characters that become the pillars of the narration, from Uncle Quasimodo to his outrageous cousin, passing by the general who invites the protagonist to read inside the doghouse. Locus is a narrative of training and learning, but the other way round: the path followed by our hero is that of “de-education” and unfocusing.

Locus resists being classified in any pure literary genre. Probably it has to be situated among the kind of novelized memories that we find now and then in the history of literature. Where does a fantasy begin that the narrator can’t separate from reality? Impossible to get a clear understanding, and that is what makes the book catch us.

So Locus is basically the literary translation of Antoni Gual’s unique view on the circus where we have been made to live without anyone asking for permission.

A critic’s comments:

A funny work in which Antoni Gual captures the life of a young neurotic in Badalona. […] This book moves between memory and novel; rather it is autofiction. The narrator tells his life (born in Badalona [greater Barcelona] into a conservative bourgeoisie as to his mother’s side, a Catalanist one as to his father’s) up to the end of the 1970s. His problem is the lightness fo the world, his personal instability. He tells it in a vivacious prose, subtle humour, […] The transfer of sheet music from the family printing house to the Liceu [opera house] serves the young man to discover good music. […] It would be very good to read a sequel, because surely the 1980s and following years hold in stock more good writing, more excentric types. We haven’t stopped since then.

SOURCE: La Campana (publisher); review by Pere Guixà, “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, May 30, 2015, p. 14


Snippet: Jenn Díaz’ “Mother and daughter”

Jenn Díaz, Mare i filla [Mother and daughter], 2015, 192 p.

Publisher’s summary:

Jenn Diaz’ first novel written in Catalan, a literary event. An author of a very personal universe, a mix of the most intimate with the most universal, that roots in the tradition of the best female writers of modern literature: Ginzburg, Woolf, Martín Gaite, Matute, Rodoreda…

Dolors, Natàlia, Glòria, Àngela, Violeta, Èrica… women with men or without. Women who live lives that are so predictible that they surprise. Women in love, women who measure love, women who age, or women who search and don’t find, or who find and don’t know it.

This is a choral novel about the things that constitute life. About family ties, the chambers itself, the houses with a garden and those in the shadow. About male worlds inhabited by women and the idiomatic expressions that explain them and that perpetuate them. About mothers, daughters, sisters, and the words and the silences that bring them together or separate them.

“Now I knew what a woman could do for love, a woman in love is the worst animal that there is.”

On sale from August 31, 2015

For more information on Jenn Díaz cf. this older post.

SOURCE: Ara Llibres (publisher)

Snippet: Catalan fiction for the fall of 2015

As with Spanish fiction, hopefully to be expanded in the coming months…

Najat El Hachmi, La filla estrangera [The foreign daughter]

Mercè Rodoreda, Obra de joventud [Early works]

Albert Sánchez Piñol, Vae Victus [in reference to “vae victis” (“woe to the vanquished”)]; written in Spanish, but to be published in Catalan at the same moment; sequel to Victus.

Maria Barbal, Pedra de tartera [Stone of a scree slope], 30th anniversary edition, “corrected” by the author.

Martí Domínguez, La sega [The mowing]

Jenn Díaz, Mare i filla [Mother and daughter], the author’s first work in Catalan, after four books in Spanish.

Lluís Maria Todó, L’últim mono [The last monkey]

and then Massot lists a lot more by author and title…

SOURCE: Josep Massot, “Històries de família” [family stories], La Vanguardia, August 22, 2015, p. 28 [printed edition]

Snippet: Spanish fiction for the fall of 2015

Your blogger hopes to expand the information given below during the fall, especially if a books seems interesting to him…

Almudena Grandes (Madrid, 1960), Besos en el pan [Kisses on the bread]

Ricardo Piglia (Adrogué, Argentinia, 1941), Los diarios de Emilio Renzi. Años de formación [Emilio Renzi’s diaries. Years of training]

José Ovejero (Madrid, 1958), Los ángeles feroces [The ferocious angels]

Clara Usón (Barcelona, 1961), Valor [Valor]

Álvaro Pombo (Santander, 1939), Un gran mundo [A big world]

Manuel Rivas (A Coruña, 1957), El último dia de Terranova [Terranova’s last day]

Fernando Vallejo (Medellín, Colombia, 1942), ¡Llegaron! [They have arrived]

Pedro Juan Gutiérrez (Matanzas, Cuba, 1950), Fabián y el caos [Fabian and the chaos]

Abilio Estévez, Archipiélagos [Archipelagos]

Pío Baroja, Los caprichos de la suerte [The whims of fate]

SOURCE: Xavi Ayén, “Quan érem més pobres” [When we were poorer], La Vanguardia, August 22, 2015, p. 29 [printed edition]

Snippet: Two quotes by Oscar Hijuelos, a writer of Iberian ancestry…

“[…] I passed a year [ca. 1973] working in one of the more incredibly sophisticated literature-nurturing jobs of all time: as a salesclerk at Macy’s department store.” (p.200)

“As much as I stood outside of it, I saw the literary life as a kind of brotherhood, a noble pursuit in which literature seemed an answer to the tawdrier aspects of existence. In other words, I was naïve, stupid, uninformed, green, and hopelessly idealistic despite the fact that, given the way I had come up, I should have known better.” (p. 260)

Oscar Hijuelos, Thoughts Without Cigarettes: A Memoir, 2011.

Snippet: Guillem Frontera’s view of contemporary Majorca

Guillem Frontera, Sicília sense morts [Sicily without the dead], Club Editor, 2015, 320 p.

Publisher’s summary:

Majorca, in Guillem Frontera’s work, could also be the world’s lab where especially greed grows –which in its developed version is called corruption. In the same manner as bacteria and people, archaic passions adapt to modernity: somebody a long time ago steals the land of a widow, somebody in modern times manipulates a complex corruption plot to obtain an advantage, and one day the young a young president of the Autonomous Region [of the Balearic Islands] receives a dead rat inside a lead box.

Majorca had been defined as Sicily without the dead, but until when? The sun is warm, there sounds the melody of a cello masterly played by a beautiful slavic woman, the retired hedonist Mateu Llodrà drinks Camparis and thinks about how to satisfy his peculiar sense of justice. And the dead rat has got the perverse capacity to disturb the course of things, in a time saturated by abuses in which the president of the autonomous region invokes regeneration.

“I wanted to write a contemporary historical novel that captured the spirit of our time,” confesses Guillem Frontera. He has fully achieved his aim.

SOURCE: Club Editor (publisher)

Rafael Chirbes, Writer of the present Spain, Dies at Age 66

Rafael Chirbes (Tavernes de la Valldigna, 1949 – 2015) died on August 15 from lung cancer. He had been successful since the publication of Crematorio [crematorium] in 2007, and his last novel, En la orilla [cf. this post] in 2013 earned him a number of prizes.

“Even though he disliked to be labeled as the novelist of the economic crisis, in his latest works he reflected the social, economic and political disorder created by the urban building pitch. In his books there are portrayed the mafia practices of businessman and politicians, that mix with the bitter discomfort of friendships that break up due to power and money. Of leftist ideology, Chirbes lived dedicated to writing, secluded in the small village of Beniarbeig (Alicante), together with his two dogs. The noise of the media frightened him and he friendly declined to comment ‘on anything’, as he had been asked to since the success of his latest books.”

Ferran Bono, Tereixa Constenla, El País

The Guardian had this to say on Crematorio in 2011 (“What they are reading in Spain”):

“The darkest part of history . . . or of the present, like the town-planning corruption along the Spanish coastline and more specifically on the east coast (Valencia and Alicante). This mafia world with a dash of Spanish picaresque served as inspiration for Rafael Chirbes, one of the most remarkable authors on the Spanish scene, in his book Crematorio (Anagrama), which has also returned to the limelight thanks to a new TV series on Canal Plus.”

The publication of a now posthumous novel, París-Austerlitz, is foreseen for early 2016. announces the translation of Chirbes’ En la orilla [On the edge] by Margaret Jull Costa for January 2016:

“On the Edge opens with the discovery of a rotting corpse in the marshes on the outskirts of Olba, Spain―a town wracked by despair after the burst of the economic bubble, and a microcosm of a world of defeat, debt, and corruption. Stuck in this town is Esteban―his small factory bankrupt, his investments stolen by a “friend,” and his unloved father, a mute invalid, entirely his personal burden. Much of the novel unfolds in Esteban’s raw and tormented monologues. But other voices resound from the wreckage―soloists stepping forth from the choir―and their words, sharp as knives, crowd their terse, hypnotic monologues of ruin, prostitution, and loss.

Chirbes alternates this choir of voices with a majestic third-person narration, injecting a profound and moving lyricism and offering the hope that a new vitality can emerge from the putrid swamps. On the Edge, even as it excoriates, pulsates with robust life, and its rhythmic, torrential style marks the novel as an indelible masterpiece.”

SOURCE: El País, August 16, 2015; The Guardian, March 28, 2011