Snippet: Beatriz Rodríguez’ “When we were angels”


Beatriz Rodríguez, Cuando éramos ángeles [When we were angels], 2016.

Publisher’s summary:

Clara, a young journalist, lives in a small village with less than 1,000 inhabitants where she leads a quiet life. She’s the editor of the local online newspaper though she aspired to a lot more. She doesn’t relate to anybody with the exception of Chabela, the owner of the Las Rosas hostel where she eats and sleeps and tries to forget her husband’s recent death, drinking at night and running in the morning.

The emergence of Fran Borrego’s corpse, one of the owners of the lands around the village of Fuentegrande, will show her that behind the apparently quiet life there exists a society full of envy, intrigues and incomplete plots that come from a past that she doesn’t know anything about.

While Clara starts an investigation of the cacique‘s death, interviewing different people that could be involved in his assassination, the readers are let into a flashback set in the 1990s that shows the true story of each of them as well as the discovery, of this group of adolescents, of sex, love, wrath, friendship, deception and vengeance.

Publisher’s author information:

One of the most interesting voices and with the most promising future of the Spanish literary scene.

Beatriz Rodríquez was born in Sevilla in 1980. A Spanish philolgy graduate. She has worked as editor for Trama, La Fábrica and Grupo Anaya. She has contributed to magazines such as El rapto de Europa [The rape of Europe] or Trama y Texturas [Plot and textures] and scripts of documentaries such as La memoria de los cuentosLos últimos narradores orales [The stories’ memory. The last oral narrators.], de José Luis López Linares.

She has also contributed to literary and opinion sections, in publications of Grupo Andalucía Información, and recently in the anthology Watchwomen. Narradoras del siglo XXI. [Watchwomen. Female narrators of the 21st century]. Currently she is the director of Musa a las 9 publishing house and of the Madrid International Poetry Festival, POEMAD. In 2013 Rodríguez published her first novel, La vida real de Esperanza Silva [Esperanza Silva’s real life]. Cuando éramos ángeles is her second novel.

«A meticulous style, daring with language, that is looking for the less conformist reader. (…) Overflowing imagination that bring her to invent stories that are similar to legends, with a very rare subtlety», Care Santos, El Cultural.

SOURCE: Seix Barral (publisher, Grupo Planeta)


Snippet: Lello’s 110th anniversary

This blogger didn’t know it at all before reading an article on Público:  considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, Livraria Lello & Irmão in Porto celebrated its 110th anniversary (opened on 13 January 1906).

For the occasion there were recited Camilo Castelo Branco and Florbela Espanca, and the first visitors received a complementary copy of A Lágrima [The tear] by Guerra Junqueiro.

In 2013 the bookstore was declared part of Porto’s historical patrimony, and, due to slacking booksales and a steady flow of tourists, since July 2015 visitors are charged an entrance fee of 3,- EUR to see the spectacular interiors [a 360º view here] that are said to have inspired J.K. Rowling for the Harry Potter series.

In 2008, The Guardian declared it the third best bookshop worldwide; in 2011 Time had this short piece; in 2015 Slate had this article rich in pictures, and CNN declared it one of the coolest bookstores in the World.

Livraria Lello & Irmão
Rua das Carmelitas 144
4050-161 Porto

SOURCE: Público, January 12, 2016

Snippet: Josep Pla prize to Lluís Foix

On the same occasion as the Nadal prize there was awarded also the Josep Pla prize for a work written in Catalan [no limitation as to the genre, though normally given to novels for their supposed economic sucess], to the veteran journalist Lluís Foix (Rocafort de Vallbona, 1943) for Aquella porta giratòria [That revolving door]. The title refers to La Vanguardia newspaper’s old headquarters’ revolving door, where the author entered to work in 1969. It’s a book of a journalist’s impressions and a portrait of an epoch of that newspaper between 1969 and 1983, when Foix was made its editor in chief.

Foix continues with this book his life story that he began with La marinada sempre arriba [The seabreeze always arrives] that concentrated on his childhood and youth in rural Catalonia. In the new book he explains from the inside how journalism worked during the last years of the Franco dictatorship, he describes his trips throughout the world, and he portrays the newspaper’s publisher and some of his colleagues of that time.

According to the Source, the author said that “La Vanguardia is not a daily that has aspired to make governments fall or change society, but it is like one of those transport vessels that pass along the Rhine river, a daily that has wanted to explain society navigating its principal riverbed. Maybe that is the reason for its long history and its excellent health.”

Foix dedicated a great part of his professional life to international relations. He describes a trip to the US and portrays the presidents he got to know, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, and the secretary of state Henry Kissinger. He maintains that the old journalism of the 1970s, though with a lot less help of technology and less freedom, was basically the same as today and also important. “There was a lot of cultural restlessness, more books were read, there was a lot of talking in the news room, … a lot of eating and drinking.”

The book’s title reminds of that symbol of a news room open to society. “In the revolving door at Pelai [street] one could see enter and leave university professors, writers, it was and incessant coming and going.”

El título elegido por el autor recuerda precisamente aquel símbolo de una redacción abierta a la sociedad. “En la puerta giratoria de Pelai podías ver entrar y salir a catedráticos, escritores, era un ir y venir incesante”.

SOURCE: La Vanguardia, Jan. 6, 2016

Snippet: Nadal prize to Víctor del Árbol

Epiphany, 6 January, the “day of the Kings” to Spaniards, is the day when the Nadal [Catalan – “Christmas”] book prize is awarded by the publisher Destino (Planeta group). In 2016, in its 72nd edition the award went to Víctor del Árbol (Barcelona, 1968) for La víspera de casi todo [The eve of nearly everything].

The novel’s protagonist is an upper-class woman, Paola, who flees from her past. Her flight leads her to a village of the Costa da Morte [Death coast] in Galicia. There there meet a series of characters that also flee from a past that is too present and from which they cannot escape. According to the Source there can be found the typical patterns of this author: psychological depth, strong emotional intensity, great passions, thunderstorms of love that flow over and disturb; all of this in a format in which, although Paola is the protagonist, the other characters compete with their presence in the narration, as the characters are considered more important than the story that is told. A thriller, but not only a thriller. The novels advances and goes back with flash-backs of the protagonists, a concentric time in which the destinies of different people cross in time. A meticulous time, in the same way as the author, who writes by hand and whom French critics have defined as a stylist of pain.

Víctor del Árbol grew up in the Torre Barró district and was a policeman from 1992 until 2012. He studied History at the Universitat de Barcelona and contributed to radio programs on the social reality called Catalunya Sense Barreres [Catalonia without barriers]. His first novel, El peso de los muertos [The deaths’ weight] won the Tiflos novel prize in 2006. He was shortlisted for the XIII Fernando Lara prize in 2008 for El abismo de los sueños [The dreams’ abyss], not published yet. In 2011 he published La tristeza del samurái [The Sadness of the Samurai: A Novel]; in 2013 Respirar por la herida [Breathing through the wound], which was shortlisted for the prize of best foreign novel at the International Crime Movie (sic!) Festival in Beaune 2014. After that came the big success of Un millón de gotas [One million drops; obtained two awards in France: Le Gran Prix de Littèrature Policière 2015 and the Lire for the best translated crime novel]. In this novel the author started out from the question of “who was your father or your mother before you were born” and from the consideration that “if one cannot forget the past, at least one can put it aside when it disturbs”. This asking from where we come from.

Memory and the traps of memory are a constant of the enigmas planted by the author: the construction of memory as fiction, and reality lurking to become visible. An author who uses to write sentences like the following one: “Ignorance is always daring, and he believed in the arrogance of words. He overvalued their use without realizing that words sometimes are like broken glass, and that one cannot push somebody to walk over them with bare feet.”

Some of Víctor del Árbol’s books have been translated to other languages; The Sadness of the Samurai is available in English.

SOURCE: La Vanguardia, Jan. 6, 2016

Best books of the year 2015 lists


Until reading Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings (Man Booker Prize 2015) that names 23 of them in which that book was mentioned for 2014, this blogger wasn’t aware of how many English-speaking publications have got “best books of the year” lists…

Of those mentioned there, the 2015 version can be found through the links:

WIRED 10 Best Books of 2015 [, still to be published]

GQ Books of the Year 2015, first mentioned: The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames, by Kai Bird

BBC CULTURE 10 Best Books of 2015, # 1: Claire Vaye Watkins, Gold Fame Citrus

NYT 10 Favourite Books of 2015, first mentioned: The Door. By Magda Szabo. Translated by Len Rix.

WASHINGTON POST 10 Best Books of 2015, first mentioned fiction title: Tom Shepard, The Book of Aron

ELECTRIC LITERATURE 25 Best Novels of 2015, first mentioned: Alexandra Kleeman, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine

TIME Top 10 Fiction Books of 2015, # 1: Elena Ferrante, The Story of the Lost Child

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY Top 10 Books of 2015, first mentioned: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

AMAZON Best Books of 2015 (fiction), # 1: Lauren Groff, Fates and furies

HUFFINGTON POST (US) Best Books of 2015 [still to be published]

CHICAGO TRIBUNE Best Books of 2015 [rigorous paywall :-(]

NEWSWEEK Best (and Worst) Books of 2015 (glimpsed through the paywall), # 1 of 700+ pages: Hanya Yanagihara, Little Life

WALL STREET JOURNAL Best Books of 2015, first mentioned: Paul Beatty, The Sellout

HOUSTON CHRONICLE 15 Notable Books of 2015, first mentioned: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

LIBRARY JOURNAL Best Books of 2015, first mentioned: Bill Clegg, Did You Ever Have A Family  – (Coates comes 2nd, and Groff 5th)

BOOKPAGE Best Books of 2015, # 1: Hanya Yanagihara, Little Life – (Groff 4th, Coates 9th)

POPSUGAR Must Reads of 2015 [comprehensive list not published yet]

BUZZFEED 24 Best Fiction Books of 2015, # 1: Alexandra Kleeman, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine – (Beatty 2nd, Groff 3rd, Yanagihara 4th)

SALON Best Books of 2015 [not sure if it’s there ;-)]

KANSAS CITY STAR Best Books of 2015, # 1: Adam Johnson, Fortune Smiles

L MAGAZINE Best Books of 2015 [couldn’t find it]

SEATTLE TIMES Best Books of 2015, # 1: Kate Atkinson, A God In Ruins – (Groff 6th)

BOSTON GLOBE Best Fiction of 2015 – a rigorous paywall but the one title that shows in the headline is Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

There was no Iberian author on any of these lists, and hardly any translated work. The closest came the enigmatic Elena Ferrante [any article on this writer seems to have this word in its title…]

This blogger will add the following title to his ever growing reading list:

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

Lauren Groff, Fates and furies