Snippet: Marina Espasa’s “Deer’s day”


Marina Espasa, El dia del cérvol [The deer’s day], 208 p., 2016

Publisher’s summary:

Minerva has spent the last months confined to her home while writing a PhD thesis on the circular time. One night, on her way home from a concert a Heliogàbal, she becomes aware of a strange deer proliferation in Barcelona. They are everywhere: on t-shirts, sweaters, canvas bags, in graffiti on the walls, in a fashionable beer label. That this deer invasion, subtle as it may be, holds a real risk, will be discovered by Minerva thanks to Ricard and a journey of both of them to southern Sweden. There she also discovers that love and happiness are as fragile and deceptive as the worst anguish.

With El dia del cérvol, her second novel, Marina Espasa constructs a work that moves with elegance between supernatural suggestion and everyday life.


A critic’s comments:

“Espasa… has managed to write a work that is every publisher’s dream, a light novel, absorbent, that one can read in one session and that, at the same time, is able to activate second readings.”

“According to the author it is one novel with a lot of other novels inside.”

“A story about a couple that lives a beautiful love story in Sweden, and that, like all love stories, doesn’t have a beautiful end.”

It could be called a spy novel, a political novel (“northern athletes” against “southern slackers”), or a novel about the recent history of Barcelona.

Half urban novel, half rural novel, though these definitions have gone out of fashion and don’t make sense.

There are elements of a gothic novel, of dark tensions. Massot is reminded of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. There is a shadow of death that has to do with the death of somebody close to the author at the time when she wrote the book.

SOURCE: L’Altra (publisher); Josep Massot, La Vanguardia, Feb. 13, 2016, p. 43 [printed edition]

Snippet: Ramon Llull prize to Víctor M. Amela

The 2016 Ramon Llull novel prize went to Víctor M. Amela, a journalist not really known for his books but for his appearances in an afternoon talkshow on TV. His winning the prize led to some discussions that had little to do with the contents of the winning work. But let’s go step by step.

The winning novel is entitled La filla del capità Groc [Captain Yellow’s daughter]. According to the author, “it is a romantic novel based on real facts that happened in the middle of the 19th century in the [mountains of] Ports of Morella [between Castellón and Aragón], with a little note of witchcraft, with loves, jealousy, friendship, betrayal, selfless dedication to unusual limits to a dream and some ideals, and also passions, father-daughter love, conjugal love and passion for the other.” (Source) The story is based on the life of Tomás Peñarrocha who was known as the Yellow of Forcall due to his blonde hair, and on his daughter Manuela, who at 13 years of age already had “a burning temperament”. Amela consulted the documentation of local historians and his main source was Memorias de un voluntario carlista forcallano. 1833-1874 [Memories by a Forcall Carlist volunteer], written by José Bordás Marcova, Manuela’s husband, published in 1997 by the Forcall city hall. The author describes his protagonist as “a 19th century Robin Hood who defends his people against the liberal’s oppression and injustice.” Josep Massot explains that “beyond passions, the scheme of a bestselling adventure novel also needs a betrayal and an antagonist to the hero. The bad one in this case is the Majorcan Juan de Villalonga y Escalada, sent by the liberals to wipe out the Carlist forces in the Maestrat region.” (source) [For more information on the historical background, the Wikipedia has got articles on the Carlist wars.]

The Ramon Llull Catalan letter prize is given by Planeta group and the Ramon Llull foundation, and it is the highest endowed prize (60,000 EUR) for a book written in Catalan, and so far had been seen as a label of quality for a work written in that language (one can find a list of former laureates at the Wikipedia article).

The problem with this year’s winning work is that a lot of people don’t believe that it was the best among the 48 or so entries into the competition, or that they don’t believe that it was really written by Amela alone. They find it curious that Amela is the only participant in the afternoon TV show who constantly speaks Spanish and whose Catalan is considered by some as of a basic level. His previous novels were written in Spanish, and so some people think about a very good corrector or translator in the background. On another level, giving the prize to a “mediatic” author, puts into question the whole concept of giving literary prizes as it appears that the prize is given more on marketing considerations (a well-known author sells a lot more) than on literary quality ones – though the jury is presumably independent and the works are entered anonymously… This problem has been around for some time as it seems that publishing houses tend to give their prizes not to emerging talents waiting to be discovered but to their own authors whom they want to promote; and the little prize money involved buys a lot of cheap advertising as the prize winning works are mentioned in the culture sections of all kinds of media. And the prize winners often lead the bestselling lists of subsequent book buying events such as Sant Jordi [Saint George’s day, 23 April] and Christmas…

SOURCE: Josep Massot, La Vanguardia, Jan. 30, 2016, p. 38-39 [printed edition; for the paragraph on the novel’s content and the author comments]




Snippet: José Carlos Llop’s “Kings of Alexandria”

megustaleer - Reyes de Alejandría - José Carlos Llop

José Carlos Llop, Reyes de Alejandría [Kings of Alexandria]

Another novel based on a writer’s memories of Barcelona in the 1970s…

Publisher’s summary:

In a Paris hotel, between the Odeón theatre and the Saint-Germain boulevard, a man remembers his youth in a hipnotic tale that talks about a bygone era of which there are hardly any remains. The locales? Palma de Mallorca -the Mediterranean city- and Barcelona -the mongrel city, …- in the mid-1970s when the old order broke down and the new one didn’t exist yet.

In this corner without history and at the same time deeply rooted in the history of the 20th century -the heritage of all the wars and ideas- there is contemplated, as in a diorama, the narrator’s sentimental education and an unrepeatalbe time, converted into a gallery of shadows that walk as in the atmosphere of a dream.

Music, literature, hippydom, street riots, youth’s disorder, the splendor of erotism and love are the tapestry where the protagonist rescues that time in search of a place in it. In the background, as if it was another music, the relationship with the city and its literary view, a subject for which the author, José Carlos Llop, has been compared with Durrell and Pamuk by the French critique. With Reyes de Alejandría Llop creates a dazzling novel that is crossed by the voices of memory, and he retrieves a life that nobody -not even those that were its protagonists and survived- is sure any longer that it ever existed.

 The Instituto Cervantes offers the following biographical information:

José Carlos Llop Carratalá (Palma de Mallorca, 1956). Majorcan writer, known as poet, novelist, has also published essays. His works stands out for a big autobiographic component, his is recognized as a great diarist of his generation.

Librarian, translator of different languages, literary critic, contributor to newspapers such as ABC, Diario de Mallorca, among others.

He is the translator of the Nobel laureate Derek Walcott, of Llorenç Villalonga, Josep Meliá, Patrick Modiano and Biel Mesquida Amengual. Some of his works have been translated into French; in France he received the Prix Écureuil de Littérature Étrangére in 2008.

Llop’s El informe Stein (1995) has been translated into English by Howard Curtis as The Stein Report.

A full list of his works can be found at the Wikipedia (Spanish).


SOURCE: Alfaguara (publisher); Instituto Cervantes; Amazon