Snippet: Montero Glez

Montero Glez, El carmín y la sangre [Lipstick and blood], 2016, 336 p.

Premio de Novela Ateneo de Sevilla [Ateneo de Sevilla novel prize]

On TV it was presented as a spy novel centered on Gibraltar during Word War II and Ian Fleming before he became a novelist, and also as “extreme”.

Publisher’s summary:

A spy novel with a political and historic background: the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the fight between communism, the Allies and fascism. Commander Ian Fleming, who later on will become famous for being the creator of James Bond, is during World War II an agent as His Majesty’s service, destined to Gibraltar with the aim of helping Major Donovan in his efforts to convince the Americans to enter WWII. In addition his mission is to do whatever possible to prevent Gibraltar from aerial attacks. Fleming arrives on the islet in February 1941 where he get to know General Clive Gerard Liddell, the governor of Gibraltar. He also gets to know the dancer Juana la Petenera. Fleming and la Petenera unite their destinies and their bodies, Fleming even falls in love with her, but the irreconcilable positions that the war infuses them, make impossible an understanding .

 The little information of the Wikipedia article on the author:

Roberto Montero González, better known as Montero Glez (Madrid, 1965), is a Spanish writer.

In his work he links himself with the tradition of the grotesque of Valle Inclán and the dirty realism of Charles Bukowski.

(The links of this Wikipedia article lead to a website and a blog that are no longer operative…)

This blogger would be interested in the historical background but doesn’t like “extreme dirty realistic” (?) novels…

SOURCE: Algaida (publisher)


Snippet: Carlos Soto’s “Coalman”

Carlos Soto, El carbonero (The Coalman), 2016, 288 p.

Publisher’s promotion:

There appears a first-rate narrator with a surprising rural drama with a criminal background, in which the inheritance of [Miguel] Delibes merges with the talent of Tarantino.

The English summary can be found at Planeta’s foreign rights page, which means they consider it a book of wider appeal than just for the Spanish market.

If one looks for the title, there appear an astonishing number of literary blogs that have already talked about this book in the two months since its appearance (naturally those on “blogger –” first, as they are part of the Google universe…):

The blogger of “Libros que hay que leer” (“Mustreads”) is pretty enthusiastic in her extended review:

El carbonero is a really simple novel from the outside and complex inside, narrated in a masterly fashion by one of the most restrained voices that I have had a chance to read recently. A different book that conquers you from the first page. (final summary)

The blogger of “Entre mis libros y you” (“Between my books and me”; more than 600 followers and 500k+ visits) shows her enthusiasm already at the beginning of her review:

There are books that can only be criticized for the fact that they end too quickly. Brief and intensive, my attempts to control my reading cravings so that the reading would last a little longer didn’t work at all, and after 24 hours I fell down worn-out and defeated by a story and a prose made for conquest.

The blogger of  the group “De lector a lector” (“From reader to reader”; nearly 800 followers), in her review describes the same traits as the previous ones (somber atmosphere, great localization, few characters, intense) and gets to a similar conclusion:

It’s a novel that will surprise you, a reading that leaves some sediment and which it is difficult to get rid of. A novel that, a few days after you finished reading it, you will realize that you have liked it a lot more than you thought at the beginning, …

The blogger of “Entre montones de libros” (“Between heaps of books”; nearly 4k fans on facebook and 2k+ on google+) also liked the book:

I enjoyed the story, I accompanied the protagonist in his search for truth, for vengeance and for his own place in peace; I listened to, more than read, every one of his confessions, and I put myself into his skin and his eyes. Because if there is one thing that El Carbonero has got, it is that it doesn’t leave the readers indifferent.

One could probably go on and on. This blogger is not too enthusiastic about somber novels whose protagonists are looking for vengeance, but the novel’s setting close to the Tramontana mountain range on Mallorca makes it quite appealing…

SOURCE: Destino (publisher)

Snippet: Ruiz Zafón’s “Labyrinth of Spirits”

El Laberinto de los Espíritus - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, El laberinto de los espíritus [The  Labyrinth of Spirits], 2016, 925 p.

The publisher’s summary:

The moment has come

Carlos Ruiz Zafón return with the denouement of the saga of The Shadow of the Wind. You will remember why you like to read.

In the Barcelona of the end of the 1950s, Daniel Sempere is no longer that child who discovered a book that would change his life in the passages of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books. The mystery of his mother Isabella’s death has opened an abyss in his soul from which his wife Bea and his faithful friend Fermín try to save him.

Just when Daniel thinks he is at one step of solving the enigma, a deeper and darker plot than he could have ever imagined unfolds its net from the entrails of the Franco regime. It is then that Alicia Gris appears, a soul born of the shadows of the [Spanish civil] war, to lead them to the heart of the darkness and reveal the family’s secret history… although at a terrible price.

The  Labyrinth of Spirits is an electrifying tale of passions, intrigues and adventures. Through its pages the reader arrives at the grand finale of the saga begun by The Shadow of the Wind, that reaches here all of its intensity and deepness, and at the same time draws a great tribute to the world of books, to the art of telling stories, and to the magic link between literature and life.

[Inside the book there are some fotographs by Francesc Català Roca (1922-1998), whose work Ruiz Zafón admires. The Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid offers some examples.]

According to the Wikipedia article, The  Labyrinth of Spirits will be published in English in 2017. “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia newspaper’s cultural supplement warmly welcomed the appearance of the novel and had a special cover by Riki Blanco for the occasion:
They explain the success of the books with Ruiz Zafón’s use of elements of different literary genres, his masterful constructions, the detailed characterizations, especially of the humble and offended, and of his continuous sensory stimulation: “the studied scenography, the text’s sonority, the suggestive force beyond the literal, the descriptions’ plasticity, the witty, vibrant dialogues, …” (Emili Rosales, editor of Ruiz Zafón in Catalan)

There is little biographical information to be found on the author Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Barcelona, 1964), e.g. in the Wikipedia article, the official homepage; there is an author essay on Shadow of the Wind on Penguin’s page.

Ruiz Zafón is probably the most read Spanish author after Cervantes.

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This blogger read the first volume of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books series, The Shadow of the Wind, around eleven years ago (2005) and was really fascinated. His partner’s grandmother, who is 50 years older/wiser, has read the other volumes, too, so he might do so as well…

SOURCE: official author homepage; Penguin; Wikipedia; “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, November 19, 2016, p. 20-23 (printed edition)

Snippet: Pedrolo’s “Typescript of the Second Origin” in English

Manuel de Pedrolo, Mecanoscrit del segon origen [Typescript of the Second Origin], 1974

It is considered juvenile literature and has been the most sold book in Catalan ever. At the Eurocon science-fiction literature fair 2016 in Barcelona, the participants received a trilingual edition (Catalan-Spanish-English), and there has been announced an American edition by Wesleyan University Press for 2017.

The Catalan Wikipedia summarizes the contents as follows:

This science-fiction novel narrates the story of Alba and Dídac, 14 and 9 years old respectively, who live in a Catalan village called Benaura. They become the only survivors on Earth after some aliens eliminate practically all of humanity. Dídac is being attacked by some guys from the village because he is black. He falls into the water and Alba, who sees it all, jumps after him to save him. It is then when there appear some flying saucers that destroy everything, but Dídac and Alba are saved because they are in the water.

During the following four years they have to wise up on their own to survive in a destroyed world and deal with all kinds of problems and difficulties that make them become mature very quickly. They become aware of the importance of preserving knowledge, and they keep books and read them. They flee the epidemic and take refuge in a farmhouse, meet dead people and survivors, wander through the ruins of Barcelona and the Mediterranean. Above all, they learn from everything that happens to them (diseases, defense from the enemy) and of the information that they gather.

The book explores the relationship between the two young people and the recreation of a world as a utopia. The narration is structured in chapters that always start in the same way, giving the age of Alba and her (non-) virginity.

The narrator is omniscient and uses a lot descriptions.

This work’s suggestive power comes from its metaphors; the new world is compared with the present one, and there are indicated new possibilities of existence. The discovery of many aspects (such as the roles of culture or of sexuality) made by the couple, explains why the book has been so popular with adolescents, who identify with the protagonists, even though the novel was not written specifically for them.

The protagonists’ names have a symbolic meaning. The girl is called Alba [Catalan, “dawn”], because it’s the beginning of a new humanity; the name Dídac comes from ‘didactica’, for the manner of how the boy learns to survive and to become mature (and symbolizes the process of growing of every human being).

The translator Sara Martín Alegre gives an introduction to the book’s English version on her blog.

There is a mini-biography of the author Manuel de Pedrolo (1918-1990) in the English Wikipedia; for more thorough information you would have to consult the Catalan or Spanish versions.

[For the 2015 movie there is more information on its website.]


SOURCE: Grup 62 (publisher); El Periódico de Catalunya, Nov. 4, 2016

Quote of the Day: Knausgaard – Dylan

(From a 1988 discussion among students about pop music groups:)

‘What about Bob Dylan then? He’s got such good lyrics! Ha ha ha! Yes, how he didn’t get the Noble Prize is a scandal.’

Karl Ove Knausgaard, Some Rain Must Fall (My Struggle: 5), p. 141                                   (originally published in Norwegian in 2010, in English in 2015)


Snippet: the 25 best books in Spanish of the last 25 years

This blogger stumbled upon another of those lists so loved by El País newspaper (and other newspapers and online publications around the world as well…). Often both the number of titles included and the period of time under study are totally arbitrary. Here it is a list for the 25th anniversary of Babelia, the newspaper’s culture supplement. The full list includes 100 titles, and the slide show of the first 25 includes a summary for each book (in Spanish).

  1. Roberto Bolaño, 2666 (2004), available in English as 2666: A Novel
  2. Mario Vargas Llosa, La fiesta del chivo (2000), = The Feast of the Goat: A Novel
  3. Roberto Bolaño,  Los detectives salvajes (1998), = The Savage Detectives: A Novel
  4. Javier Marías, Tu rostro mañana (2002), = Your Face Tomorrow
  5. Enrique Vila-Matas, Bartleby y compañía (2000), = Bartleby & Co.
  6. Mario Levrero, La novela luminosa (2005) [“The luminous novel,” not translated, unknown author to this blogger]
  7. Javier Cercas, Soldados de Salamina (2001), = Soldiers of Salamis
  8. Adolfo Bioy Casares, Borges (2006), [“biography” of a friendship, not translated]
  9. Javier Marías, Corazón tan blanco (1992), = A Heart So White [this blogger’s first contact with contemporary (Spanish) literature]
  10. Juan Marsé, Rabos de lagartija (2000), = Lizard Tails
  11. Juan José Saer, La grande (2005), = La Grande (English)
  12. Javier Cercas, Anatomía de un instante (2009), = The Anatomy of a Moment: Thirty-Five Minutes in History and Imagination
  13. Jorge Baron Biza, El desierto y su semilla (1998), [“The desert and its seed,” not translated, unknown author to this blogger]
  14. Rafael Chirbes, Crematorio (2007), [“Crematorium”, not translated]
  15. Elena Poniatowska, Tinísima (1992), = Tinisima [fictionalized account of the life of Tina Modotti (1896-1942)]
  16. Antonio Muñoz Molina, La noche de los tiempos (2009), = In the Night of Time
  17. Fernando Vallejo, El desbarrancadero (2001), [“The away pusher,” not translated, unknown author to this blogger]
  18. Juan José Saer, La pesquisa (1994), [“The investigation,” not translated, unknown author to this blogger]
  19. Tulio Halperin Donghi, Son memorias (2008), [“These are memories,” not translated, by an Argentine historian unknown to this blogger]
  20. Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, Vendrán más años malos y nos harán más ciegos (1993), [“There will come more bad years and they will make us blinder,” not translated]
  21. José Ángel Valente, Fragmentos de un libro futuro (2000), [“Fragments of a future book,” not translated, unknown author to this blogger]
  22. Diamela Eltit, Jamás el fuego nunca (2007), [“Never ever the fire never,” not translated, unknown author to this blogger]
  23. Carmen Martín Gaite, Nubosidad variable (1992), [“Partly cloudy,” not translated]
  24. Tomás Eloy Martínez, Santa Evita (1995), = Santa Evita (English)
  25. Francisco Casavella, El día del Watusi (2002-3), [“Watusi’s day”, not translated]

Quite a few (dead) authors to be discovered…

SOURCE: El País, Oct. 29, 2016