Snippet: Andreu Martín, Gaziel award 2015

De moment, tot va bé - Premi Gaziel de Biografies i Memòries 2015 - ANDREU MARTÍN

Andreu Martín, De moment, tot va bé [Right now, everything’s going fine], 2016, 368 p.

Premi Gaziel de Biografies i Memòries 2015  [Gaziel biography and memories award]

Publisher’s summary:

Andreu Martín, one of Catalunya’s most prolific and most read authors, debuts in one of the few genres that he hadn’t practiced yet: that of memoirs. His memories are impregnated with an ironic and friendly humor, and the lead us from the sparkling Barcelona of the 1920s faced by his father, passing through the oppression of the Franco dictatorship, the debauchery and the following disenchantment of the 1970s, the years of the Transition [to democracy] up to today; and at the same time they present us with an essential reflection on the fact and profession of writing.

Some more information on the author, known to this blogger as crime novel and juvenile literature writer, can be found in the Wikipedia‘s article. Martín has got a personal blog on WordPress and a Twitter account (both in Spanish).

Martín’s novel Societat negra [Black/Crime society] has got good localizations in the Barcelona of a few years ago (cellular phones exist but WhatsApp doesn’t…) and introduces one to a hidden underworld of Chinese criminal organizations, but it is not a “gripping” novel.

According to there exist no English translations of Martín’s books but some French ones.


SOURCE: La Magrana (publisher)


Snippets: the myth of Al-Andalus // “Hot Milk”

Your blogger stumbled on these while scanning through a list of Financial Times summer reading recommendations:

The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain, by Darío Fernández-Morera, EDS Publications, RRP£25/ISI Books, RRP$29.95

Medieval Islamic Spain basks in a reputation for being well ahead of its time as an enlightened polity that promoted harmony among its three religious faiths. In what Hispanist scholars are hailing as the most important book on the subject in many years, Fernández-Morera, a Northwestern University historian, concludes that this reputation is much exaggerated.

A google search results in quite a few reviews of this book, e.g. the one by the New English Review and another by the Center for Islamic Pluralism.


Not by a Spanish author but set in Spain – and on the Man Booker Prize longlist:

Hot Milk, by Deborah Levy, Hamish Hamilton, RRP£12.99

In a hot, dry, underemployed Spain, 25-year-old Sofia arrives with her mother Rose to find a cure for the latter’s obscure and obsessive ailments. Sofia becomes unhealthily caught up in her mother’s suffering, until she discovers various unexpected forms of release.

Reviews abound, e.g. from The Telegraph, The Guardian (1, 2), and The New York Times.


SOURCE: FT, July 1, 2016

Snippet: Cervantes Chico Prize to Ana Alcolea

Ver cubierta a mayor tamaño

The writer Ana Alcolea is the winner of the latest edition of the Premio Cervantes Chico [Young Cervantes prize], awarded by the city hall of Alcalá de Henares to distinguish a Spanish author whose work consists of children’s and juvenile literature.

Born in Zaragoza in 1962, Alcolea is a graduate of Spanish and English Philology; since 1986 she has worked as a secondary school teacher.

The jury pointed out “the capacity to transmit emotion in a language of great literary quality in the frame of very well constructed stories”, according to a press release by the Alcalá city hall.

On Alcolea’s career, …, the jury underlined “the capacity to combine her work as a teacher with that of a writer, and her close contact with the educational centers where she transmits enthusiasm for reading.”

In 2011, Alcolea won the VIII Premio Anaya de Literatura Infantil y Juvenil with La noche más oscura [The darkest night]; in 2009 she published her first adult novel, Bajo el león de San Marcos [Beneath the lion of San Marcos].

Other well-known works by the author are:

Donde aprenden a volar las gaviotas [Where gulls learn to fly]

El retrato de Carlota [Carlota’s picture]

El medallón perdido [The lost medallion]

Cuentos de la abuela Amelia [Stories of grandma Amelia]

El bosque de los árboles muertos [The forest of dead trees]

Created in 1992 and without any financial reward, the Cervantes Chico prize seeks to give value to the work of Spanish authors specialized in a genre that hardly receives any recognition.

Alcolea’s personal blog is written in Spanish only.

Although lists some of the above titles with their English translation, probably none of Alcolea’s works is available in English; the Library of Congress holds five of Alcolea’s books in their original Spanish version.


SOURCE: El Mundo, July 15, 2016

Snippet: Francisco Benítez Reyes, writer

Felipe Benítez Reyes, El azar y viceversa [Hazard and viceversa], 2016, 512 p.

The publisher’s summary:

“We cannot even imagine the places where life is hiding when we, the hustlers [Span. buscavidas = lit. life-searchers], are going out to make a living.”

With reflections of this kind the protagonist of this novel is presented to us: an eternally needy one who grows up in a hostile environment and who adapts to a reality by which he is equally fascinated and bewildered.

Born in a southern village marked by the presence of an American military base, our hero gets to have different jobs, gets to know good fortune’s whims as well as those of adversity, the fulfilled fancies and dreams gone bad, drift and course. In the background there are the dim Spain under Franco’s regime, the mistaken and adventurous years of the so called Transition [to democracy, 1975-1978], and our present of oportunists disguised as saviours.

In his awaited new novel, Benítez Reyes draws a personality that will stay engraved in the reader’s memory: an eternal survivor, a servant to many lords; a melancholic optimist who is not shaken by bad luck. This is a story of contrasts: happy and alarming, realist and enigmatic, vibrating and reflective, sometimes hilarious and sometimes spooky. Like life itself.


The story is set in Rota (in the province of Cádiz, Spain), native city of Benítez Reyes and where the U.S. have got an important naval base with nearly 5,000 soldiers, recently visited by President Obama (July 10, 2016), the first American president to do so since 1953.

The short Wikipedia article on Benítez Reyes (Rota, 1960) mentions that his work has been translated into English but does not mention any titles; doesn’t offer any book by this author in English…

SOURCE: Planeta (publisher)


18 July 1936: Franco coup (80 years ago today)

It was an event that marked the rest of Spanish 20th century history: the military coup against the Republican government. The Wikipedia article might serve as an introduction to the basic facts. It did not come “out of the blue” as can be read in a recently published book by Stanley G. Payne, El camino al 18 de julio. La erosión de la democracia en España (dic. de 1935 – julio de 1936 [The path to 18 July: the erosion of democracy in Spain (Dec. 1935 – July 1936].

Payne’s basic thesis is that “even though on occasion the outbreak of the Civil War has been seen as an inevitable clash of opposite ideological forces -communism, fascism- that found in the Spain of the 1930s a fertile battle ground, the conflict could have been avoided with political attitudes more open to dialogue and more intelligent.”

Payne is more critical with the left than the right, “but it does not matter if you agree with his thesis or not, his book presents the accumulation of mistakes, adventurisms and lack of capacity for dialogue that led to the Civil War.”

(Mauricio Bach, “Cultura/s”)

If Payne represents a “right-wing” view of the war and its causes, Paul Preston is considered somewhat “left-wing”, whereas the late Raymond Carr, Hugh Thomas or Gabriel Jackson are named “liberal” by Bach.

You might also like this article by Michael Kerr from The Telegraph, entitled “Homage to the fallen of Catalonia, 80 years on.”

SOURCE: Planeta (publisher); review by Mauricio Bach in “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, July 2, 2016, pp. 6-7 [printed edition]


Snippet: Nacho Carretero’s “Fariña”


Nacho Carretero, Fariña [Galician: flour]

publisher’s summary:

Stories and indiscretions from the Galician drug trade

Coca, farlopa, perico, merca, Fariña

Galicia never commercialized a product with so much success. Though now it appears to be a far-away nightmare, in the 1990s, 80% of the cocaine for the European market was landed at the Galician coasts.

Apart from its privileged geographic position, Galicia had all the necessary ingredients to become a “new Sicily”: economic backwardness, a centuries-old tradition of smuggling by land, sea and estuary, and a climate of admiration and tolerance for a criminal culture inherited from the age of the “inoffensive” and “beneficient” tobacco bosses. The mighty and hermetic clans grew in a climate of impunity, entrenched due to the sloth (when not complicity) of the political class and the security forces.

Through the direct testimonies of bosses, speedboat captains, penitents, judges, police, journalists and mothers of drug addicts, Nacho Carretero portrays minutely a criminal landscape that has often been underestimated. In the popular imagination, the kitsch costumbrism of bosses with clogs and gold watches has obscured the destructive potential of a phenomenon that razed the social, economic and political fabric of Galicia.

In addition, Fariña includes an unprecedented review of the clans that continue operating today. Because contrary to the media and popular beliefs -as is shown by this book-, the drug trade is still alive in Galicia.

One must not forget what has not ended yet.

on the author:

Nacho Carretero (A Coruña, 1981). He began on editorial staffs and later fled to be freelance. He published in all written media that came into his shooting range, from Jot Down to XL Semanal passing by Gatopardo or El Mundo. He wrote on the Ruandan genocide, on Ebola in Africa, on Siria, on his aunt Chus, and even on his beloved Deportivo de La Coruña [soccer team]. Telling the history of the Galician drug trade was a journalistic dream encysted in his brain since he was a neno [boy]. In the summer of 2015 he pledged allegiance as a reporter of El Español.

Recently there have been articles in the press informing that the drug trade in Galicia is on the upswing again. There are also articles on the drug addicts in Cadiz, Andalucia, who prowl the beaches for “lost” packages of smuggled drugs from Morocco.

SOURCE: Libros del KO (publisher)