Snippet: Falcones’ “The inheritors of the earth”

megustaleer - Los herederos de la tierra - Ildefonso Falcones

Ildefonso Falcones, Los herederos de la tierra [The inheritors of the earth], 2016, 896 p.

Publisher’s summary:

Barcelona, 1387. The bells of Santa María de la Mar church still sound for all of the Ribera neighborhood’s inhabitants, but one of them listens to their ringing with special attention… Hugo Llor, the son of a dead sailor, who as a 12 year old works in the shipyards due to the generosity of one of the most respected gentlemen of the city: Arnau Estanyol.

But his youthful dreams of becoming a shipbuilder have to face a hard and merciless reality when the Puig family, archenemies of his mentor, use their position before the new king to execute a vengeance they had cherished for years.

From this moment onwards Hugo’s life oscillates between his loyalty to Bernat, his friend and Arnau’s only son, and the necessity to survive in a city that doesn’t treat its poor in a just way.

Forced to leave the Ribera neighborhood, Hugo looks for work together with Mahir, a jew who teaches him the secrets of the world of wine. With him, among vineyards, vats and stills, the young man discovers the passion for the terroir, and at the same time he gets to know Dolça [“sweet”], the jew’s beautiful niece who will be his first love. But this feeling, forbidden from custom and religion, will be the one that will give him the sweetest and also the most bitter moments of his youth.

Ten years after Cathedral of the Sea, Ildefonso Falcones return to this world that he knows so well, medieval Barcelona. And he does so by another time recreating to perfection this effervescent feudal society, prisoner of a fickle and corrupt nobility, and the struggle of a man to get ahead without sacrificing his dignity.

Review [included by the publisher]: “Kipling said that craftsmanship is always at the base of all great art. We have thought of this assessment while reading the abundant (and very elaborate) second part of Cathedral of the Sea […] A good historical novel that achieves to submerge the reader in atmospheres of the past. […] A sequel that is up to the mark of its predecessor.” Carles Barba, Cultura/s, La Vanguardia

A “hyped up” book, published with an initial edition of 400,000 copies, hopefully used to crossfinance other works that don’t find a mass market. This blogger will abstain as he found Cathedral of the Sea too violent, though it probably gives a truthful picture of the Middle Ages, and the story of a wine merchant sounds like a book by Noah Gordon…

The book title probably is an allusion to Matthew 5:5: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

SOURCE: Grijalbo (Penguin Random House)

Snippet: Roberta Vázquez, illustrator

“Anodino en un cuadro de Hopper” (C) Roberta Vázquez http://bobbypatata.tumblr.com

 

Roberta Vázquez (Santiago de Compostela, 1989) is an illustrator who lives and works in Barcelona. Her “main character” is called Bobby Patata.

In March 2016, Marie Claire magazine listed her as one of seven Spanish illustrators one needed to follow on Instagram and characterized her as follows:

Her little animals are anything but naïve, they are badass, sarcastic, and they reflect the worst of contemporary life. They are very funny.

On September 20, 2016, she had 3,133 followers on Instagram.

This blogger discovered her through a short documentary made by “Página 2” literary [Spanish state RTVE] TV magazine [around 4 minutes, in Spanish, showing her at work].

Vázquez is a self-publisher, and some of her works can be acquired online.

[A google search leads first to a blog on blogspot.com where Vázquez hasn’t posted anything new since November 2015, which this blogger fully understands who also started there and left it due to the limitations as to the domain name, formats, etc.]

Snippet: Café de Gijón prize to Isabel Bono

Isabel Bono, Una casa en Bleturge [A house in Bleturge], 2017, 212 p.

Translated excerpts from an article by Jaime Cedillo:

Una casa en Bleturge [A house in Bleturge] by Isabel Bono is the winning novel of the 66th edition of the Café de Gijón novel prize, endowed with 20,000 EUR. It’s the story of a married couple that prematurely lost their child, a fact that becomes the axis on which turns the family, dragged by culpability and underground hate. The author commented that “it is a novel that talks about loneliness and pain, precisely two topics that never spent themselves.” She included the death of a child “because it best represents this pain.”

The jury pointed out the “undoubtable literary quality and the highly original and demanding character of the work.” That the writer managed to find the right tone for each person and to make the finished work as a whole plausible, from the experiences lived by the different characters to the obsessions and fears suffered from by each of them. A work “that results tender, cruel and really moving.”

Isabel Bono (Málaga, 1964) started to write at age 7 and has published 14 poetry collections so far [cf. her personal blog (in Spanish)].  As to her working method, when asked Bono explained that she constructs her fiction from moments recovered from day to day life. Apparently, the jury had some difficulties getting in touch with her to communicate the prize as Bono doesn’t like social networks. The winning novel, chosen among nearly 1,000 entries, will be published by Siruela.

Update Feb. 3, 2017:                                                                                                                     Meanwhile, the novel has come onto the market. The publisher’s summary can be consulted in Spanish at the source.

SOURCE: El Cultural, Sept. 7, 2016; Siruela (publisher)

Snippet: Elvira Navarro’s “Last days of Adelaida García Morales”

megustaleer - Los últimos días de Adelaida García Morales - Elvira Navarro

Elvira Navarro, Los últimos días de Adelaida García Morales [The last days of A.G.M.], 2016, 128 p.

Publisher’s promotion/summary:

A novel that reproduces the last days of the enigmatic Spanish writer Adelaida García Morales and that reaffirms Elvira Navarro as one of the most unique voices of her generation, revitalising committed literature and a master in the field of individual psychological portrait and of social portrait.

Adelaida García Morales is one of the most mysterious figures that emerged in the culture world during the last decades. The celebrity acquired by her books El Sur [The south] (adapted by Víctor Erice into the famous movie of the same name) and El silencio de las sirenas [The sirens’ silence] made the mutism into which the author delved especially worrisome. In 2014 she died hardly acknowledged.

Los últimos días de Adelaida García Morales is the fictionalized account of the days that preceded the writer’s death. Shortly before her demise García Morales went to an official government equality office asking for 50,- EUR so that she could visit her son in Madrid. Inspired by this real anecdote, Elvira Navarro’s novel combines two stories, giving rise to an intensive and very unique narration close to a false documentary that covers topics such as parent-child relationships, the nature of creating, the treatment of women artists, the institutions’ ignorance, autodestructon and madness.

 

Los últimos días… will be published on Sept. 22, 2016, exactly two years after the death of Adelaida García Morales (1945-2014). Her last novels, published in 2001, Una historia perversa [A perverse story] and El testamento de Regina [Regina’s will] had received negative reviews and were hardly read. Navarro’s novel pretends to be plausible but not truthful as most of the narrated is fiction.

The Wikipedia article on the writer Elvira Navarro (Huelva, 1978) is only available in Spanish. She studied philosophy at Complutense University in Madrid and received a prestigious fellowship at Residencia de Estudiantes. Apart from writing novels, she also comments on literature, and she teaches creative writing. In 2010 she was considered one of the most important of young Spanish novelists by Granta magazine. Her previous novels are La ciudad en invierno [The city in winter], La ciudad feliz [The happy city] and La trabajadora [The female worker]. Reader commentators at amazon.es describe La trabajadora as very intense, haunting; a good book but not for everyone…

Update (Oct. 20, 2016):

This book has led to a fierce controversy between relatives of the presumably portrayed author García Morales, especial her former husband and a sister, and the book’s author ,Elvira Navarro. One point of criticism is that the author did not ask the family beforehand what they thought about her idea of writing this book. Another point is that the author used García Morales real name, her photograph on the cover, and appendices for her sources, making readers believe she really wrote about her, while in reality a lot of the contents of the book is pure fiction. While this is considered a legitimate practice in “autofiction”, it is difficult to defend when writing about other people. The most important point of criticism is that the episode about García Morales asking for money to be able to visit her son is ficticous, too, as García Morales lived in hard circumstances but not in utter poverty. And on this piece of fiction the whole publicity campaign was based.

SOURCE: Penguin Random House (publisher); El Cultural, Sept. 9, 2016; author blog; for the update cf. “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, Oct. 15, 2016, p. 10-11 [printed edition]

Marta Carnicero’s “The sky according to Google”

El cel segons Google - MARTA CARNICERO

Marta Carnicero, El cel segons Google [The sky according to Google], 2016, 144 p.

Publisher’s summary:

The arrival at home of Naïma, a girl adopted by Julia and Marcel, was meant to be the beginning of a fulfilled familiy life, but the new situation lived by the couple reveals a hidden reality that strove to burst. A short and intense novel, made from the knowledge of who we are, written with a scalpel and trimmed with loopholes of irony that leave us with a half smile on our lips.

The review of L’ílla dels llibres [Book island] is a positive one. They remark that the book is Carnicero’s first novel, after publishing several cooking books:

Marta Carnicero [Barcelona, 1974] has written a novel with a very graphic and direct language, a short but intense text that brings us closer to very typical situations and scenes lived by a young couple.

… it also treats questions referring to remembering and memories that occasionally do not ajust to reality.

El cel segons Google by Marta Carnicero has been cooked slowly but in reading is devoured quickly leaving very good sensations.

The book is being/has been translated to English by Alicia Meier. Further information can be found on the PEN USA website.

SOURCE: La Magrana (publisher); L’ílla dels llibres (literary news website)

Iñaki Martínez’ “City of lies”

Iñaki Martínez, La ciudad de la mentira [City of lies], 2016, 464 p.

The publisher offers a summary in English.

On the author:

Iñaki Martínez (Guatemala, 1954) is the son of a Panamanian mother and a Basque father (an exile and member of the Brigada Vasca [Basque brigade] during World War II). A law graduate, he grew up and studied in Spain, and during his youth he was a founding member of Euskadiko Ezkerra and member of various anti-Franco political organizations in Euskadi [Basque Country]. His life has always been spent between Latin America and Spain: he was part of the international relations commission of the guerrilla of El Salvador and worked as international representative for the Basque government. He also wrote on international politics for different newspaper from the Basque Country, Panama, Mexico and Nicaragua. He is the author of Arresti, a novel on the relation between ETA and the business world. With City of Lies he was finalist of the Nadal prize 2015.

The novel’s central theme sounds interesting and the “Cultura/s” review was a positive one; often the finalist works of the big prizes are considered the real literay winners. On the other hand, the readers valuations on the publisher’s website don’t sound too enthusiastic…

SOURCE: Destino (publisher)

Snippet: Fernando Aramburu’s “Fatherland”

Fernando Aramburu, Patria [Fatherland], 2016

Publisher’s summary:

On the day that [the terrorist organization] ETA anounces that it will abandon the armed struggle [for the Basque Country’s independence] [Oct. 20, 2011], Bittori visits the cementery to tell the grave of her husband, el Txato, assassinated by the terrorists, that she has decided to return to the house where they lived. Will she be able to live with those who harassed her before and after the attack that upset her life and that of her family? Will she be able to know who was the hooded man who on a rainy day killed her husband on the way home from his transport company? She might arrive as discretely as she wants, Bittori’s presence will definitely alter the village’s false tranquility, above all that of her neighbor Miren, an intimate friend in other times and mother of Joxe Mari, an imprisoned terrorist and suspect of Bittori’s worst fears. What happened between these two women? What has poisoned the life of their sons and husbands who were so close in the past? With their hidden sprains and unwavering convictions, their wounds and courage, the incandescent story of their lives before and after the crater, that was the death of el Txato, talks to us about the impossibility to forget and the necessity to forgive in a community broken by political fanatism.

From the review by José-Carlos Mainer, “Babelia”, El País:

… it is an extensive and memorable novel that encompasses 40 years of fascistization of a closed and distrustful society, and as many years of moral degradation of government institutions. Everything’s there: the world of the armed struggle and the imprisonment of its heroes, the hypocrite and cruel concealment of its victims, the constitution of a mentality of  a “chosen” and persecuted “people,” the sultry role of the Catholic church and its parish imams, the daily and systematic division of a community into the good and the bad. Aramburu has portrayed the two faces of an archaic and patriarchal society. And it becomes clear that the same mentality that sustains a great social cohesion has been the breeding ground for the justification of violence and of the fascist harrassment of the suspect. …

Patria is above all a great and pondered novel. But the genre’s tradition carries with it the virtue of explaining to its contemporaries something of the world they have to live in: to amalgamate evocation and analysis.

More information by the publisher on the writer Fernando Aramburu (San Sebastian, 1959) who since 1985 has resided in Germany.

To know more about the actual state of (political) affairs in the Basque Country, follow the news about the regional elections that will take place on Sept. 25, 2016. The governing party right now is the “moderate nationalist” PNV (Basque nationalist party); EH Bildu is the “radical” nationalist party pursuing independence from Spain. It will be interesting to see how the local branch of Podemos will fare, a party that defines itself as more interested in social justice than nationalism.

 

UPDATE March 14, 2018:

Meanwhile, Patria has been translated into other languages, an there haven been English-speaking articles on the book:

Politico (March 2017)

The Conversation (August 2017)

On the German version (in German):

Perlentaucher

FAZ (author interview)

Deutschlandfunk (on the situation in the Basque Country after ETA)

UPDATE May 3, 2018:

Finally, this blogger got around to actually reading the novel himself. He liked it. It is probably one of the best novels written in Spanish in recent times. Its strength lies in the realistic presentation of both sides, the author’s empathy with the victims and to a certain degree also with the murderers. He shows how the terror affects the victims’ and the assassin’s families, how the whole society is poisoned by it. And Aramburu is not trying to win political gains in a triumphalist manner as done by Spanish Popular Party politicians, he also talks about police brutality.

And meanwhile ETA has announced its definite dissolution for Friday, May 4, 2018. Cf. the news @ The Guardian.

UPDATE May 4, 2019:

There is an English version available, entitled Homeland, and The New York Times offers a review.

 

SOURCE: Tusquets (publisher);  review in “Babelia”, El País, Sept. 3, 2016, p. 9 [printed edition]

Snippet: RBA crime novel prize to Ian Rankin

Even Dogs in the Wild Ian Rankin

On Sept. 8, 2016, and in Barcelona, Ian Rankin was awarded the X Premio RBA de Novela Negra [Tenth RBA crime novel prize] for his novel Los perros salvajes; judging from the title it is the Spanish version of his 2015 John Rebus novel Even Dogs in the Wild [Wikipedia]. The news is not really surprising, considering that RBA has been Rankin’s publisher in Spain for years and that Spanish publishers in the recent past have tended to give their literary prizes to in-house authors as a relatively cheap means of publicity – though the juries are claimed to be independent… What makes the RBA prize special is that with 125,000 EUR it is the highest endowed crime novel award in the world.

More information on Ian Rankin (Cardenden, Fife, 1960) can be found in the Wikipedia and The Guardian.

 

SOURCE: El País, Sept. 8, 2016; author homepage

Snippet: Puigdevall’s “Guests of stone”

 

Ponç Puigdevall, Els convidats de pedra [Guests of stone], a literary study, not a novel…

Excerpted publisher’s summary:

The writer and literary critic Ponç Puigdevall (Sant Feliu de Guíxols, 1963) has gathered texts he wrote between the years 2000 and 2002 for the newspaper El Punt on rare Catalan books and authors: little known, sometimes extravagant, always remote and marginalized ones.
These little known authors are presented in chronological order, and the book starts with the figure of Antoni de Montserrat, a missioner to India at the end of the 16th century, a jesuit who created the first map of the Himalaya and who explained the Gospels to the great Mughal Akbar. And the book ends with a text on Guillem Simó’s portentous diary, En aquesta part del món [In that part of the world].
 Other authors and works to be (re-)discovered through this book are e.g. Sinibald de Mas, a student of Sanskrit theology; Francesc Pujols; Juli Vallmitjana; Josep Maria Planes’ [known as a journalist assassinated by anarchists] Nits de Barcelona [Barcelona nights]; the force of the short stories written by Cèlia Suñol; Diego Ruiz, or Ramon Vinyes; the diaries, one of the most powerful streaks of Catalan literature, of Edmon Vallès, Artur Bladé, Tomás Garcés, Marià Manent, Francesc Rierola, Gaziel, or the exquisit Hores angleses [English hours] by Ferran Soldevila.
 There are also to be found the so called “minor” works of authors who form part of the established canon, e.g. La ruta blava [The blue route] by Josep Maria de Sagarra; Nocturn de primavera [Spring night] by Josep Pla; Del Pròxim Orient [From the Middle East], a collection of articles that Josep Carner published in the diary La Publicitat as a result of his time as consul in Lebanon; the late work of Eugeni d’Ors… And progressing still further there is an altarpiece of authors and works that undeservedly haven’t had a major reception, e.g. the poetry of Joan Vinyoli; A partir del silenci [Starting from silence] by Joan Brossa; K.L. Reich by Joaquim Amat Piniella; some works by Blai Bonet; or Els estats de connivència [States of collusion] by Miquel Bauçà.
 The book’s title is a reference to Pere Gimferrer’s Los raros [The strange ones], where the latter writes: “The strange ones are the guests of stone of literature and reading.” It is above all a battle against literary ostracism, to claim their place in the chain of literary history. In a certain way it is anti-academic that doesn’t value literature according to schools, conceptual critical apparatus and theoretic systems. Puigdevall criticizes the Catalanist establishment for leaving out authors that it didn’t consider exemplary enough, e.g. for their use of a non-standard Catalan when the modern, normative Catalan was still being “harmonized” by Pompeu Fabra in the early 20th century.
This book is a feast of comparative literature and shows a reading ethic that rests on the beating force of narrative style, literary emotion and the conviction that literature is a way of personal salvation for determined spirits. Despite a host of dates, names,  works and places Puigdevall manages to show the literature’s vitality. And his skill for unfolding an essayist digression through authentic narrative  approaches, catch the readers with the same resources with which they are moved by a story.
This books sounds interesting for those seriously interested in Catalan literature – and who already master the language as it is highly unlikely that either the study itself or the works mentioned in it will ever be translated…

SOURCE: El llop ferotge (“The fierce wolf”; publisher)

Jordi Coca’s “California”

California. Jordi Coca.

Jordi Coca, California, 2016 [published simultaneously in Catalan and Spanish]

The publisher’s summary:

A professor remembers how he came to the United States in early summer of 1992, right after his divorce, with the intention of travelling by car to the University of California at Berkeley where he would teach and write a book on the great American landscape painters of the 19th century. But everything becomes strange with the appearance of the mysterious and erratic poet Tom Dunkel who joins the trip. Unforeseen situations and landscapes, fundamental doubts, fear… In a lifeless village in Nevada the professor gets to know the former Civil Rights activist Gary Atwood, his interesting wife Jill, and Amy, a real-estate agent who doesn’t want to talk about her past. The desert heat, desire and disease incite the professor to rethink his life, his work, his marital failure, the romantic base of the painting about which he wants to write, the supposed value of the beat literature that portrayed the same roads where he has got lost…

The first sentence of this summary might indicate that the book is based on his personal experiences, as he was a visiting professor in Berkeley in 1992 and later published a book on Edward Hopper [obviously not a 19th century landscape painter]… More biographical and bibliographical information on Jordi Coca (Barcelona, 1947) can be found on the author’s personal page (in English) and the Catalan writers’ association’s page (in Catalan).

SOURCE: Tirant (bookseller)