Snippet: 8th “Ink Crimes” prize to Marc Moreno

During the opening act of Barcelona crime novel week 2017 (BCNegra), the 8th Crims de Tinta  [“ink crimes”] prize, sponsored by RBA-La Magrana (a big publishing house), was awarded to Marc Moreno (Barcelona, 1977), owner of the small Llibres del Delicte publishing house, specialized in Catalan crime novels, and author of five crime novels. The winning novel is entitled Temps de rates [Rats’ times] and set in Barcelona’s Verneda neighborhood. It starts with a drug dealer on the run who leaves a rucksack containing eight kilograms of cocaine with a neighbor of his on the same floor. Eloi draws the attention of all the mafiosi of his neighborhood who want to know where all of this material has come from. The jury decided unanimously in favor of Moreno’s novel due to “the dramatic force of the arguments and the desperate characters and the not at all complacent view on a nearly always hidden reality. […] The archetype of the losers has been brought to the extreme, creating surviving and amoral anti-heroes who, despite all of their efforts to the contrary, generate the readers’ empathy. […] The novel shows a willingness to get close to the most unpleasant reality, following the social function of a crime novel.” (Poverty, crime, drugs, and bad luck.)

Moreno’s other books are:

Cabdills [Chieftains] (2011)

Independència d’interessos [Independence of interests] (2013)

El silenci dels pactes [The silence of the pacts] (2014)

Contra l’aparador [Against the showcase] (2015)

and, together with S. Bennasar, Ll. Llort and S. Macip, La reina de diamants [The diamond queen] (2014)

Sounds a little bit like a Catalan Hunter S. Thompson to this blogger who might abstain from reading Moreno as he likes to preserve his peace of mind ignoring society’s most unpleasant domains…

SOURCE: Ara.cat (newspaper), Jan. 26, 2017

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Snippet: Espido Freire, writer

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Still a relatively young writer in 2017, María Laura Espido Freire (Bilbao, 1974; Wikipedia articles: English, Spanish = a lot more comprehensive), using only her last names as an author, has already written and published an impressive number of novels, short stories, essays, travel journals, children’s and juvenile literature and collective works as well as translations.

In 1999, Espido Freire became the youngest writer ever to win the well-endowed Planeta prize for her third novel, Melocotones helados [Frozen peaches], 336 p.

Publisher’s summary:

Elsa, a young painter, has seen herself forced to leave home after receiving death threats for which she doesn’t know the reason, and she moves to another city to leave with her grandfather. In this kind of exile that nobody wants to take seriously, Elsa enters the intricate human relations that she had neglected to concentrate on painting, and she enters the history of her own family, especially that of a cousin with whom she shares the forename and family names. This way she faces her own fragility, the errors, the mix of identities, the living a wrong life without knowing it. Is it possible that even when dying there are confusions?

In 2004 she published Querida Jane, querida Charlotte [Dear Jane, dear Charlotte], 250 p., another novel reflecting her interest in female protagonists, women writers.

Publisher’s summary:

Espido Freire hasn’t escaped either the fascination that the life and works of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters still exercise over thousands of readers around the world. Fruit of this spell, there came up in her the desire to address the enigma that no scholar up to now has been able to resolve satisfactorily: how four single and poor women, autodidacts, with bad health, isolated in the countryside in a century that not precisely maximized their intellectual restlessness, who died before reaching age forty, managed to write a dozen of the best novels in Literature. The author decided then to set off on a journey into the imaginary and geographic world of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters and this book is the diary of this endeavour.

 

This blogger was reminded to write about Espido Freire, when he saw 1) a magazine ad for a guided holiday tour to the England of Jane Austen and the Brontës in the company of Espido Freire, and 2) a recommendation for her latest juvenile novel, El chico de la flecha [The guy with the arrow], 2016, 240 p.

Publisher’s summary:

Marco is a boy like anybody we could meet today: intelligent, sensitive, with a lot of qualities and also a lot of fears. With twelve years he is at the age in which life changes for good; in which he leaves behind the child without responsibilities and begins to take steps in the way of the adults. His story and his worries could be those of any other adolescent, and his errors very similar. The only difference is that Marco lives in the first century AD in Emerita Augusta, today’s Mérida, a city in the Roman Hispania where free citizens live at the side of slaves, where the women live under tutelage of their families, and where society, though sophisticated, enjoys violent entertainment.

Marco, together with his friend Aselo, commits errors, learns to aks for help, and definitely does that which any other guy of his age: grow.

 

Espido Freire’s personal homepage is in Spanish and English and contains, among a lot of other elements, a picture gallery; her blog on WordPress is in Spanish and contains more pictures and links to her radio appearances, and to her Instagram and Facebook accounts, where she has got literally thousands of followers.

This blogger started reading Melocotones helados, but hasn’t been able to finish it yet. It is a quiet book with slow action, and there have been a lot of others that appeared more attractive…

SOURCE: Casa del Libro (Melocotones), Casa del Libro (Querida Jane), Anaya (El chico)

 

Snippet: BCN Negra 2017 – 26 Jan – 4 Feb

Barcelona crime novel week already at its 12th edition.

Reinstalled Crims de Tinta [Ink crimes] prize, 8th edition, will be awarded on Jan. 26.

The Pepe Carvalho prize will be given to Dennis Lehane. There will be an exhibition on the detective Pepe Carvalho, as there have passed 40 years since Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’s (1939-2003, Wikipedia article) novel La soledad del mánager [The Angst-Ridden Executive].

More information in Catalan and Spanish at the source.

The program looks interesting with a lot of different round-table discussions on e.g. Catalan crime fiction, crime in Barcelona, Catalunya or the Basque Country, women in British crime fiction, etc. The only thing that struck this blogger as somewhat strange is that the program lists all the academic achievements of the lesser-known participants next to their names instead of concentrating on the main one, i.e. the reason for their being there, e.g. hardly anybody is only a journalist, all are also writers (but who is not?); with the better-known participants they simply put “writer”…

SOURCE: BCN City Hall

Snippet: Agustín Fernández Mallo’s “Nocilla Dream”

Agustín Fernández Mallo, Nocilla Dream [Hershey dream], 2007, 226 p.

Publisher’s summary:

“A book full of hits, of memorable pages, of delicious details that, as Juan Bonilla notes in his accurate prologue, in no way ought to pass by unnoticed.”

Vicente Luis Mora, Quimera, Nov. 2006.

Nocilla dream, that can bear without regret the label indie, is one of the riskiest narrative bets of recent years. It is full of references to the American independent cinema, to the history of collage, to conceptual art, to pragmatic architecture, to the PCs’ evolution and to the novel’s decadence. Agustín Fernández Mallo concentrates on the outsiders of the 21st century, and especially on the mysteriours connection between some alternative and globalized lives that travel through B movie scenarios: blondes from a whorehouse who dream that some customer takes them to the East, anarchists who live in strange micronations, Chinese senior citizens addicted to surfing, an Argentine who lives in a Las Vegas apart-hotel and builds a unique monument to Jorge Luis Borges… All of them trapped in the leading metaphor of deserts and of the beauty of the empty.

 

They call it a novel, but is is rather a collection of 113 short pieces, some of them connected or referring to each other. The individual pieces consist of a few lines or up to three pages. Some of them are quotations from scientists, episodes from the history of science, etc. All of them are entertaining. They can be read individually or in a row and make for a surprisingly pleasureable reading experience; maybe like your favourite columnist in a newspaper’s weekend edition. Nocilla Dream has been succeeded by Nocilla Experience and Nocilla Lab, so far unknown to this blogger.

The English Wikipedia has got a short article on the author; the Spanish one is more comprehensive…

SOURCE: Candaya (publisher)

 

Snippet: Enric Puig Punyet’s “The great addiction”[to Internet]- non-fiction

Enric Puig Punyet, La gran adicción: Cómo sobrevivir sin internet y no aislarse del mundo [The great addiction: how to survive without Internet and not to isolate oneself from the world], 2016, 220 p. (classified as Psychology by the publisher)

Publisher’s summary (back cover):

Who hasn’t observed themselves wasting time while navigating adrift on the Internet? Who hasn’t felt intoxicated by the continuous bombardment with insubstantial information? Who hasn’t suffered the annoyance of a mobile screen interfering in a conversation? Exposed, without intimacy, haven’t you ever felt the need to disconnect, an apparently impossible feat in a world where nearly everything is done online?

This book is for those who to a greater or lesser degree feel the Internet’s disadvantages and the addictions it generates. It collects the testimony of ten people who someday decided not to ever connect to the Internet again and who managed to do it. They didn’t do it because of nostalgia for the past or of the desire for a bucolic escape to the countryside. On the contrary, they are young city dwellers who are satisfied with their lives, who wanted to regain the direct contact with others and with themselves. Together, the constitute the first community of “formerly connected”.

To disconnect today is a rare measure of resistance. But in a world saturated by information, images and messages, that at the same time generates loneliness, anxiety and inequality, more and more people desire to close this tap that is always open to concentrate again on that which occurs around them. How to survive without Internet and not isolate oneself from the world?

Enric Puig Punyet is the founder of “institutinternet.org” and of “Enter Forum,” an international meeting on the social repercussions of Internet use. He is a Doctor of Philosophy (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and École Normale Supérieure Paris),  writer, artist and independent commissar; his work formalizes through movie essays and texts for different cultural publications. He is the author of La cultura del ranking [The ranking culture; Bellaterra, 2015], a regular contributor to artistic and cultural centers, and a professor of Universitat Oberta de Catalunya [distance education university]. He is also the leader and soloist of the Indie electronic band Plexyglas.

To this blogger it seems a good idea to reduce one’s daily exposition to Internet, especially to social networks and celebrity news sites, etc. But a total disconnect would be a priviledge for city dwellers, because country life without access to the Internet would be boring, dreary, and uncomfortable, as the contact to friends and family and access to a lot of goods and services would be either impossible or involve long rides on a “complicated” road network…

SOURCE: Arpa (publisher); author interview on RTVE’s Página 2, Jan. 17, 2017

Snippet: Clara Sánchez'”What your name conceals” (Nazi war criminals Spain)

Lo que esconde tu nombre

Clara Sánchez, Lo que esconde tu nombre [What your name conceals], 201o,  427 p.

Nadal prize 2010.

More information on the novel in English can be found on Planeta’s foreign rights page (short summary) and in an article by Martyn Richard Jones from The Guardian, August 2010.

A novel with numerous weaknesses but an interesting topic: the hunt for Nazis who had sought and found refuge in Spain’s Costa Blanca region.  It is difficult to situate exactly in time: cheap mobile phones had been invented but none of the protagonists uses them, there is no reference to internet; a former concentration camp inmate from Argentina has got the energy and the means to pay a hotel stay of several weeks (months?) in Spain, etc. Its main weakness: the central story is very long, the end too short and abrupt; and it should have been written 30 years earlier, when the war criminals were still alive.

Despite all its weaknesses, the book is gripping and provides a pleasurable, though haunting reading experience. The end is somewhat disappointing (apologies for spoiling), but that is maybe the point: the hunt for Nazis who fled from justice often was a very disappointing endeavour as many either managed to keep in hiding and die peacefully there, or they were too old and weak to be judged once found and brought before a court.

In 2016, this blogger read Toni Orensanz’ non-fiction work El Nazi de Siurana [The Nazi from Siurana], about a Belgian former SS member who fled from justice and lived a quiet life in the beautiful mountains off the Catalan Golden Coast (“Costa Daurada”, Tarragona); Orensanz also discovered this only after the Nazi had died. The author names a few books as references of works that deal with Nazis who found refuge in Spain after World War II:

Simon Wiesenthal, The Murderers Among Us, 1967

José Maria Irujo, La lista negra: Los nazis que salvaron a Franco y la Iglesia [The black list: the Nazis who saved Franco and the Church], 2003, 264 p.

During World War II, while the German troops invaded Europe, hundreds of Gestapo, Abwehr and SD agents worked freely in cities all over Spain. Diplomates, journalists, businessmen, cinema producers and professional agents formed an extensive net with branches and contacts inside the administration and the elites dominating society.

In 1997, the journalist José María Irujo found the list presented by the Allies in which they asked for the repatriation of 104 alleged German spies who hid all over Spain. During five years, the author rummaged in their past in an attempt to reconstruct their lives and report their adventures. None of them was handed over: a lot of them found refuges in houses of Spaniards, while others remained hidden under the protection of the [Roman Catholic] Church and fled to South America.

The fascinating adventures of these spies of Hitler, some of whose families are still amongst us, are a faithful example of the protection the Nazis enjoyed in Franco Spain.

Javier Juárez, La guarida del lobo [The wolf’s lair], 2007, 423 p.

This work, fruit of more than two years investigating in national and foreign archives, documents the entry into Spain of fifty former Nazis and collaborationists from different countries and offers until now unpublished data on the reception offered by the Spanish authorities.

Orensanz also mentions the “factual list of Nazis protected by Spain” at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

SOURCE: Google Books [summary Irujo], Casa del Libro [summary Juárez]

Nadal and Josep Pla prizes 2017

The literary prize cycle has begun again on 6 January = Epiphany = Day of the Three Kings = the holiday after the night children in Spain receive their big Christmas presents. For the Nadal (= “Christmas” in Catalan) prize it was the 73rd edition, for the Josep Pla prize (for a work written in Catalan, 6,000 EUR; no English Wikipedia article) the 49th.

The winners and their works:

Nadal – Spanish – 18,000 EUR – Care Santos (Mataró, 1970), Media Vida [Half a life]

A novel on the passage of time, the guilt’s weight, and the importance of forgiveness, set in the changing Spain of the 1980s; in 1981, during the week the legislation on divorce by Fernández Ordóñez is approved, to be precise. Five women meet again after 31 years of not seeing each other and after a terrible childhood experience in boarding school marked them for ever. Five girls playing the game of pledges, a harmless game that got skewed and developed into something horrible. The five women meet again to know what has happened to each of them since then and to try and find the forgiveness that maturity and the passing of time offers to them. Narrated in her usual style full of life, the work is set in the 1980s because it tries to portray an entire generation of women who had to reconstruct their destiny in a moment of deep social and political changes.

Josep Pla – Catalan – 6,000 EUR – Xavier Theros (Barcelona, 1963), La fada negra [The black fairy]

A historic thriller, set in the agitated Barcelona of 1843, of the bombardment against the Jamància rebellion. The protagonist is Llàtzer Llampades, a former merchant ship captain, marked by a tragic  shipwreck, who now works as a policeman. A policeman who has to face a series of terrible child assassinations in a dirty and claustrophobic city, still within walls, where a revolution is about to start.

Theros: “La fada negra is a thriller, a very dark crime novel, that talks about a chain of assassinations, in which there is a poor outcast who was a seaman and ends up police captain in the Camància revolution [=Jamáncia rebellion] because everybody calls him captain. It’s a novel of passions and betrayed hopes in the Barcelona of 1843, a claustrophobic city, restrained by walls that didn’t let it grow and in which there took place two events that haven’t left much of a mark: one was the Camància revolt, one of the first uprisings carried out by the poor and miserable; and the second one a a bombardment that lasted three months, from Montjuïc [mountain] onto Ciutadella [“citadel”], that crushed the revolution and destroyed one third of the city.”

 

In general, this blogger doesn’t like literary prizes for unpublished works in which it seems the publishing houses use the prize as a cheap publicity campaign for well-known writers they already publish, but recently he has read some works that won the Nadal prize and are really good…

There is an older article partially on Care Santos winning a prize for a juvenile novel.

Xavier Theros is a Catalan writer and poet who has published several humorous books so far and who acts in monologues (Catalan Wikipedia article).

SOURCE: Justo Barranco, La Vanguardia, January 7, 2017, pp. 30 – 31 [printed edition]