Snippet: Lorenzo Silva’s “Music for the ugly”

Lorenzo Silva, Música para feos [Music for the ugly], 2015, 224 p.

Apparently the title is an allusion to Leonard Cohen’s “We are ugly, but we have the music.”

Publisher’s summary:

A countercurrent love story

Mónica and Ramón get to know each other in a nightclub where none of them really belongs. Sometimes the stories begin like this. Mónica and Ramón haven’t had much luck in their lives, and there isn’t too much hope left that they will have it anytime. Mónica is a journalist getting close to thirty who survives underemployed in a job that she hates. Ramón, in his mid-fourties, persists to be a mystery: he doesn’t reveal what he does. They could have never met again, but one week later they meet again and it is hopeless: the music they hadn’t had begins to play. Later Mónica remembers. In her own words: “The only clean and beautiful that I really ever had.”

The publisher’s page also offers a spotify playlist.

The critic M. Ángeles López reveals that Ramón is a soldier destined to Afghanistan. She likes the book.

Your blogger somewhat likes Silva’s “Bevilacqua y Chamorro” crime novels. As far as he can see, the only book by Lorenzo Silva available in English is his 1997 The Faint-hearted Bolshevik (2013).

SOURCE: Planeta (publisher); review in “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, September 19, 2015, p. 6 [printed edition];

Snippet: Spanish National Fiction Prize to Ignacio Martínez de Pisón

On September 21, the writer Ignacio Martínez de Pisón (Zaragoza, 1960) won the National Fiction Prize for his 2014 book La buena reputación [A good reputation] (640 pages); the award is given by the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, and it is endowed with 20,000 EUR.

The jury described the book as “a portrait of the Judeo-Spanish world in Melilla during the Protectorate and the complex development of a network of family relationships as part of an extensive tale that is very faithful to the traditions of fiction.”

Publisher’s summary:

Samuel and Mercedes are concerned about their two daughters’ future watching the imminent decolonization of Spanish Morocco and the retreat of the Spaniards from the Protectorate back to the peninsula. We are in Melilla in the 1950s and in this context of change and insecurity, the couple decides to travel to Málaga to settle in a Spain that is slowly beginning to open up to modernity. Through five different members of the same family, this saga wanders through 30 years of Spanish history and passes through cities such as Melilla, Tetuán, Málaga, Zaragoza or Barcelona. Samuel and Mercedes’ desires and hopes and those of their daughters and grandchildren will be conditioned by unspeakable secrets in a life that goes by in a fleeting and unexpected manner. La buena reputación is a novel about the inheritance we receive from the past and about the feeling of belonging, about the necessity of finding our place in the world. An essential author of Spanish letters, Ignacio Martínez de Pisón in these pages brings to life some unforgettable characters in a sharp and truthful portrait of the daily life and the fate of a family. A wonderful piece of reading one wants to return to, because in it we see reflected our own experiences and the nostalgia for those moments that are lost in memory.

SOURCE: (news); Planeta (publisher)

An interview with Jenn Díaz by Josep Massot

Jenn Díaz (Barcelona, 1988) makes her debut in Catalan literature with the novel Mare i filla [Mother and daughter] (Ara Llibres), after four titles written in Spanish: Belfondo (2011), El duelo y la fiesta [The grief and the feast] (2012), Mujer sin hijo [Childless woman](2013) and Es un decir [It’s a saying] (2014). Jenn Díaz already reflected in Mujer sin hijo on the dystopia of a world where motherhood was mandatory. She too lives from her own experience of acting as a mother without having had a child yet. The new novel is “about family ties, one’s own bedrooms, houses with gardens and houses in the shadows. About men’s worlds inhabited by women and the set phrases that explain them and perpetuate them. About mothers, daughters, sisters and the words and silences that bring them nearer or separate them.”

Question (Josep Massot): How did you decide to write in Catalan? Has the topic anything to do with it?

Answer (Jenn Díaz): After Es un decir [the fellow writer and journalist] Eva Piquer proposed to me to take part in the family of [a culture website in Catalan]. I decided to start a series –Els fills dels altres [The others’ children]- that had me bound, during one year, to write a weekly story in Catalan. She proposed it to me in case I liked to change and begin in Catalan, and I accepted it. This had the effect that my head, up to then dedicated literature-wise to Spanish, bifurcated. I come from a Spanish-speaking family, I have written in Spanish. Now I live in Catalan, at home and with my in-laws, and if we add the stories of… all of this made me think about writing in Catalan. And there count also the fast women editors such as Izaskun whom I got to know then and who encouraged me a lot.

Q: Could you portray the women that are part of the novel? Shall we start with Dolors?

A: She’s the one who shows us that love comes around when it wants to, and when it does, it devastates. Even in the case of stable women who are far from passion.

Q: Natàlia.

A: The protagonist who wants to detach herself from traditional models, from the mediocrity of marriage, from the vulgar things of love, and who ends up being it’s own victim.

Q: Àngela.

A: Due to the lack of references, Àngela is driven to go against the stream and to not obey any family norm; she ends up fleeing from the centre, from the blood, from that which had been taught to her.

Q: Violeta.

A: The woman with the male role, who doesn’t need men nor love and who idealizes the father.

Q: And lastly Èrica.

A: The resigned woman who chooses social and family stability over truth.

Q: What kind of relationship do they have?

A: Dolors, Natàlia, Àngela and Glòria live with the man of the family, and when Àngel (brother, husband, father) dies, all of them have to find their role in the family. Between the sisters in law there is an explicit tension of unknown origin. Between the mother and her daughters a deception, a slow loss of tenderness and understanding. Between the sisters there is a total disconnection that brings them further apart with each day. Between the aunt and her nieces an absolute devotion and great respect. Between Natàlia and Èrica an agreement. Between Natàlia and Violeta a rivalry to see who is preferred by the man they love.

SOURCE: Josep Massot, La Vanguardia, September 12, 2015, p. 52 [printed edition]

Snippet: Miquel Adam’s “Winter bullfighter”

Miquel Adam, Torero d’hivern [Winter bullfighter], 2015, 255 p.

Publisher’s summary:

With the power granted to him by being the president of an apartment-owners’ community, one of the neighbors tries to install a dictatorship in his block of flats. A young editor travels to the Frankfurt Book Fair to discover the zero value of literature. A worker who is uncapable of bullfighting the workplace’s injustices lives a rebellion that begins with his own body. Somebody who doesn’t get published any book aquires all the megalomaniac tics of the great writers.

The gallery of characters that stroll around through this story collection have got the intimate pride of knowing themselves bigger and more beautiful than reality wants them to believe, and in this lies their endearing dignity. And this is why the humor that beats in this book is combative irony, that sorrow can be mixed with hope and that love comes together with vengeance.

Julià Guillamon, critic:

“Of all the good things that this book has got from a narrative point of view, I have been impressed by the endings that don’t allow the stories to languish: they end with a turn that one doesn’t expect and when one has got the impression to know it all, they open a small door and make one pass to another screen where nothing is so simple.”

Miquel Adam (Barcelona, 1979) is an editor.

SOURCE: Edicions de 1984 (publisher’s blog); review by J. Guillamon at “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, September 5, 2015, p. 8 [printed edition]

Crime novels for “the Catalan book’s week”

From September 4 to 13, Catalan booksellers celebrate the 33rd “week of the book in Catalan” at Cathedral avenue in Barcelona. Among the special events there will be the afternoon of Sept. 7 dedicated to crime novels.

The titles mentioned by Pere Guixà in the “Cultura/s” presentation are the following:

Anna Moner, El retorn de l’hongarés [The Hungarian’s return], 256 p., “Alfons el Magnànim” novel prize

Publisher’s summary:

In May 1897, a dismembered corpse appears at Bois de Boulogne in Paris. This triggers the investigation of a series of horrifying murders that will mark the career of the Security Police’s chief inspector Olivier Béziers and of the prestigious coroner Aguste Locard.

More than 100 years later there arrives at the Medical-Legal Institute a very big coffin, discovered during the remodeling of Père Lachaise cemetery. Sara Bongard, a young forensic anthropologist, can’t imagine that she will see herself involved in the macabre events that shock the Parisian society at the end of the 19th century.

Anna Moner mixes sensuality, magic and mystery to construct a novel with gothic roots […]. With interesting aspects of the histories of science and art in the background, switching between the end of the 19th century and today, this breathtaking thriller brings the reader into a dark criminal investigation.

Margarida Aritzeta, L’amant xinès [The Chinese lover], 286 p.

Publisher’s summary:

Two beggars appear dead in an abandoned mill. A few days later the corpse of a disguised Chinese woman is found. Hate crimes? The investigation of inspector Mina Fuster and her team of the Tarragona regional police department points to a mysterious Chinese lover the dead woman was engaged to. But there isn’t anybody who knows anything about this man who erased all traces of his presence at the crime scene. A business trip to China by the victim, undertaken just before she died, accompanied by a group of businessmen and politicians related to the construction of the Barcelona World complex could shed light in a case where everybody hides their true face.

Jordi Pijoan, Els àngels de Sóar [The angels of Sóar] – no information found –

Esperança Camps, La cara B [The B side], 205 p.

Publisher’s summary:

In Valencia there appear the corpses of two politicians who were involved in corruption schemes in the past when another politician, a high-flying regional secretary, fled overseas before being sentenced for these illegal relations. Now all suspicions fall on the former secretary who could have returned to do justice, but nobody knows where he is, not even his family. His son is an aspiring novelist who wants to write his great work based on his father’s history. His wife is an upper-class woman who lost her status and lives in misery since her husband’s flight.

A female journalist, former lover of the son, wants to discover what there is behind the murders before this is found out by the official police investigation, or by the inofficial one undertaken by other implicated politicians who have started the inquiry on their account.

Sebastià Bennasar, Cant de sirena negra [The black mermaid’s song]

From a blogger:

The protagonist falls in love with a black mermaid and will do whatever it takes to see her again. He follows traces and stories that will make him travel from Majorca to Barcelona, to Paris, Florence, Seville… He will meet friends and people he knows who will help him, will listen to him and will also explain their own stories to him.
A book full of references to other books, sometimes clearly named, sometimes hidden but seeable for everyone as the good traces. Fiction and reality unite in this book of adventures and the search for love, where we find, apart from the protagonist’s dream, also other diverse love stories.

SOURCE: “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, August 29, 2015, p. 10 [printed edition]; Bromera (Moner’s publisher), Llibres del Delicte (Aritzteta’s publisher, and Camp‘s)

Snippet: Josep Pijoan, a little known 20th century intellectual

Pol Pijuan, Pere Maragall, Josep Pijuan. La vida errant d’un català universal [J. P. The wandering life of a universal Catalan], 2014, 312 p.

Publisher’s summary:

With Josep Pijoan. La vida errant d’un català universal, Pol Pijoan and Pere Maragall present the results of a very long research on the life journey of one of the most important and least known Catalan scholars and intellectuals of the 20th century. From Josep Pla’s portrait [1960s] we had an idea of the importance of this “great man”. But still he was a great unknown. The only more or less precisely known facts referred to the time of the foundation of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans [Catalan Studies Institute], his clash with Josep Puig i Cadafalch, and his friendship with the poet Joan Maragall. Once he had left for Rome with Teresa Mestre, there were hardly any traces to follow. It was known that Pijoan had lived in Italy, Switzerland, Canada, the United States, and that he had returned occasionally to Catalonia. With this book his comings and goings have been reconstructed, the changes of address, the publishing assignments, the successful projects of this scholar from Barcelona who was always uncomfortable and polemic. For Josep Pijoan, confidant of Enric Prat de la Riba, Catalonia became too small. Spain could not follow him, the North American universities did not understand his innovative methodology and the Society of Nations had no capacity to assume a counterproposal of his.

Whatever, this great art historian and first class disseminator, to whom we owe the discovery of the romanic mural paintings in the Pyrenees, among other things (he was one of the founders of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans), enlarged our culture and always carried Catalonia in his heart, though he was often the object of incomprehension.

SOURCE: Galerada (publisher); review by Adolfo Sotelo Vázquez, “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, August 22, 2015, pp. 6-7.