Snippet: Teresa Solana’s “A Short-cut to Paradise”

Teresa Solana, Drecera al paradís/A shortcut to paradise, 2007/2011

A fresh and lively Barcelona crime story and at the same time a satire on the world of Iberian literature with the constant quarrels between authors that write quality literature and those that sell a lot of books… Published in 2007 this blogger read it with a delay of nine years, and it still appeared to be very up to date both in its portrayal of normal people’s problems of making ends meet as in its depictions of contemporary writers, their vanities and their discussions. Her other crime novels are also very good.

This post has been waiting to be published for more than a year… You will find more information on the novel and its author at the Source.

SOURCE: Bitter Lemon Press (publisher in English); Grup 62 (Catalan publisher, cover)

Snippet: A Civil War love story

Sonsoles Ónega, Después del amor [After love], 2017, 592 p.

Fernando Lara novel prize 2017

Publisher’s summary:

An unforgettable story of secret love that crossed a war and overcame all social barriers.

Carme travelled by train from Barcelona when an exchange of glances changed her life forever. It was 1933 and Frederic Escofet and Carmen Trilla –he an army captain; her a wife trapped in an unhappy marriage– wove a love story that neither gossip, nor the Spanish Civil War, nor exile were able to destroy, but that left in Carmen’s three children the trace of uprooting.

Based on real facts, Sonsoles Ónega puts into the format of a novel the story of a brave woman who reconstructed her identity in a Spain where women were not allowed to love and stop loving. An unforgettable story of secret love whose protagonists had to face all kinds of social conventionalisms.

 

Xavi Ayén cites the author in an article on the book. “I wanted to concentrate on her, Carmen Trilla, known for her elegance and beauty as the ‘Greta Garbo of Barcelona’ in the 1930s,” and who reveals herself as a Madame Bovary with the courage to finally leave her husband and be at the side of the man whom she really loved.” Ayén writes that Escofet’s biograph left out Trilla because his subject wanted to spare his first wife the disgrace. The same biographer, Xavier Febrés, gave Ónega access to his material in which Escofet himself explained the love story. Ayén says that many readers will think that Ónega exaggerates but the author maintains that she lessened the intensity. “Feelings are the prime material of the novel.” The bad guy of the story is Trilla’s husband. For background information on the epoch, Barcelona’s social life, etc. Ónega used La Vanguardia‘s newspaper archive. According to Ayén, the novel has got “all the elements of a bestseller and presents different registers, i.e. that of the romantic, adventure, costumbrista or historic novel.”

Sonsoles Ónega (Madrid, 1977) is a parliament reporter for Telecinco, a private TV station that belongs to the Berlusconi Mediaset group. This is her fifth published novel.

This blogger is cautious with novels that are publicized as “unforgettable” and possible bestsellers; and he doesn’t like Telecinco

SOURCE: Planeta (publisher), Xavi Ayén in La Vanguardia, June 17, 2017, p. 43 [printed edition]

Snippet: Cabré’s “When the twilight comes”

Jaume Cabré, Quan arriba la penombra [When the twilight comes], 2017, 288 p.

Publisher’s summary:

A frightened child that rebels against the tyranny of a teacher, a murderer who confesses in front of the next victim, a thief consumed by a painting that he just stole, a writer who threatens his publisher with suicide, an old man who takes a walk through the settings where he served during the war… These are shocking stories that intertwine or meet each other, always with dynamism, energy, a touch of humour and incursions into fantasy.

Quan arriba la pensombra is a collection of stories that light up like flintstones. There are restless individuals who would like to be somewhere else, lawless characters, aromas of a thriller, bits of irony, fantastic elements… with the technical mastery that has made him a celebrated author in all of Europe -forward and backward jumps, changes in the viewpoint, braiding voices-, but also with the vital passion. Jaume Cabré has put together a compact book without any superfluous word. Quan arriba la penombra is a story collection imbricated in a solitary and full cone, stories touched by darkness and rage, but also by irony, fantasy and playing.

 

Cabré’s previous novel Confessions has been translated into English, cf. this 2014 post, one of the most popular ever on this blog. There is also a 2015 post on an essay.

SOURCE: Grup 62 (Planeta, publisher)

Snippet: Carmen Posada’s “Cayetana’s daughter”

Carmen Posadas, La hija de Cayetana [The duchess’s daughter], 2016, 520 p.

Publisher’s summary:

An amazing and forgotten episode protagonized by one of the most famous women in our History: Cayetana de Alba, the unforgettable muse of Goya.

Eccentric, capricious and free, for more than two hundred years her power of seduction has endured unalterable. But very few know that the duchess adopted a black girl, María Luz, whom she loved and educated as her own daughter and to whom she bequeathed part of her fortune.

Carmen Posadas narrates with a master’s hand the fate of the two mothers: the adoptive one with her loves and dramas at Carlos IV’s court, an authentic nest of intrigue, and that of the biological one, Trinidad, who, as a slave in Spain, fights to find the baby that was taken from her shortly after giving birth.

Posadas presents interesting places (Cuba, Madrid, Sevilla, Cádiz, Madeira and the Coto de Doñana (reserve) and a lot of palace politics, art, and social history: how people lived at the end of the 18th and in the early 19th century, the French Revolution seen from afar, violence as part of daily life, especially for poor women, and the impotence of rich and poor alike in front of epidemics and death. At the end of the book, the author explains that she stuck to the facts wherever possible, i.e. mainly with reference to the life of the duchess and the painter Goya. This blogger didn’t know that there lived slaves in the Iberian peninsula in the 18th century – mostly as luxury objects to show off with, though this didn’t improve the way they were treated/abused. He enjoyed the book, except for the excessive descriptions of dresses and hairstyles…

More information on the Uruguayan-Spanish author Carmen Posadas (Montevideo, 1953) who has lived most of her life in Spain can be found at the Wikipedia, though the bibliography is incomplete in the English article. Also on the house of Alba.

Amazon.com offers her novels Child’s Play, The Last Resort, and Little Indiscretions in English.

SOURCE: Planeta (publisher)

Snippet: Formentor prize to Alberto Manguel

The Argentine-Canadian author Alberto Manguel (Buenos Aires, 1948) is the winner of the 2017 Premio Formentor de las Letras [Formentor letter prize] in recognition of his work in total as “one of the most lucid inquiries in the organic history of world literature,” according to the jury. “The minute recreation of the art of reading, the expertise with which the readers learn to understand the immensity of the world belong to the encyclopedic knowledge which Alberto Manguel has used to portray the life of books.” (jury: Inger Enkvist, Lila Azam Zanganeh, Daniel Fernández, Francisco Jarauta and Basilio Baltasar)

Manguel, they say, has always been especially attentive to the importance of reading for the young generations, a fact to point out in a time such as ours in which the entertainment industry and new technologies dissipate the readers’ attention and absorb the time formerly used for emotive and aesthetic education. In recognizing the importance of Manguel’s literary work, the jury “confirms the inevitable obligation to protect the people of letters who sustain the great universal library.”

The prize will be awarded in September during the “Formentor literary conversations”.

Manguel has published in Spanish as well as in English; he is a writer, translator and publisher, member of the Argentine Academy of Letters, and since June 2016 he directs the Mariano Moreno national library in Buenos Aires (coming from Princeton University).

In his biography stands out his special personal and intellectual relationship with Jorge Luis Borges, whom he got to know during a summer job at the Pigmalion bookstore in Buenos Aires and for whom he read several times a week at his home between 1964 and 1968.

Manguel started to work at the recently founded publishing house Galerna, whose owner Guillermo Schavelzon, 35 years later and headquartered in Barcelona, would become his literary agent.

He worked as a reader for different publishing houses such as Denoël, Gallimard and Les Lettres Nouvelles in Paris, and for Calder & Boyars in London, and he received his first literary award while in Paris, in 1971: that of the Argentine newspaper La Nación for a story collection that the shared with Bernardo Schiavetta.

After he had lived in Tahiti and the UK, in 1982 Manguel moved to Toronto, Canada, where he lived until the year 2000, when he moved to a Medieval farm in France.

His first novel, News from a Foreign Country Came, won the 1992 McKitterick prize.

In 2011 came out in Spanish Conversaciones con un amigo [Conversations with a friend] in which Manguel, in a series of chats with the French editor Claude Rouquet, remembers a lot of his life’s events and the genesis of his most important books, and he also opinionates on a wide range of topics.

For his part, Manguel has remarked that it is an “enormous responsibility” having been chosen for the award, that he accepts with “honour” as a prize for his defense of reading and with respect caused by the winners of the prize’s former editions.

 

The Wikipedia has articles on the Prix Formentor and on the author Alberto Manguel. In contrast to most of the other Spanish literary prizes, the Formentor is a serious one that rewards quality and doesn’t involve commercial interests of a publisher…

SOURCE: EFE, El Mundo, May 30, 2017

Snippet: Varela’s “Eugenio d’Ors” (biography)

Eugenio d'ors 1881-1954 (p. Gaziel 2016) - Javier Varela Tortajada

Javier Varela, Eugenio D’Ors, 1881-1954, 2017, 576 p.

Gaziel biography and memoirs prize 2016 [video of the award ceremony (Spanish)]

publisher’s summary:

During the course of his life, Eugenio d’Ors, aka Xenius, was a Catalan nationalist, trade unionist, monarchist, and finally a falangista [Spanish fascist; cf. Wikipedia]. He also was an extraordinary intellectual, art critic, patient writer of an extensive “Glossary” in Catalan and in Spanish, and definitely one of the most interesting authors of Spain during the first half of the 20th century.

Such a relevant, complex figure, full of contrasts, needed a biography that examined in unitary form all of his facets. In an exhaustive and never complacent manner, Eugenio d’Ors (1881-1953) brings to light the brilliant and original writer, the formidable creator of aphorisms, the politically changing man, to claim his real importance in the Catalan, Spanish and European context of the past century.

excerpts from a review by Adolfo Sotelo Vázquez:

A splendid intellectual biography

Javier Varela (Madrid, 1952) is a distinguished scholar of Spanish political thought…

This dense… biography is written like an erudite story with an ambition to style. A style characterized by fluency and rhythm… the biography is attractive, elegant and at the same time solid… It is an intellectual biography because it narrates the life of the writer but also the moral, aesthetic and political map that surrounds him in Catalonia, Spain, and Europe.

… Varela sintethizes in a masterful way the influence of Maurras in Catalonia… and he points out the creative translation of Maurras’ set of ideas undertaken by d’Ors in Catalonia. The author studies rigorously the écritures du jour [daily columns] that d’Ors produced during more than 15 years for the Barcelona press. … The works of the years 1906 and 1907 “throb” with the ethical and aesthetic principles of the Noucentisme [movement], … the qualities of willingness, proportion and balance.

During the second decade of the 20th century d’Ors practised a kind of “intellectual dictatorship” in Barcelona: apart from his newspaper contributions, he was secretary of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans [Institute of Catalan Studies], a teacher at the Escola de Bibliotecàries [female librarians’ school], director of the Quaderns d’Estudi [study notes; probably a magazine], director of the Seminari de Filosofia i Psicologia [Philology and Psychology Seminary], …

Hi rich and polemic personality, his extraordinary culture and his enormous capacity for daily work, materialized in an ocean of journalistic contributions (“a highly intelligent commentator of the evanescent present,” in a precise phrase by Varela). And also his eagerness to demonstrate his virtues as a writer in Catalan and in Spanish. D’Ors lived with his dandyism, his vanity, his cinicism, with his intellectual arrogance. These were the aspects of his masks.

This blogger read some of d’Ors’ early 20th century articles and was impressed by his culture and his beautiful style in Catalan, in quality very similar to the prose by Josep Pla.

SOURCE: RBA (publisher); review in “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, May 27, 2017, pp. 4-5 [printed edition]