Snippet: Caparrós’ “History”

Martín Caparrós, La Historia [History], 2017 (Spain; Argentina: 1999), 1,022 p.

Publisher’s summary:

According to the author himself, “La Historia is a folly and is, at the same time, my most important book: in some way, my only book. I published it for the first time in Argentina in 1999…”. And it was time to recuperate with all honors this excessive and dazzling novel that over time has become an authentic cult work.

An unknown Argentine historian discovers in a French library a mysterious book that might contain the fundational myth of his country. The historian decides to dedicate his life to the study and annotation of this text, that tells everything about a hardly known civilization whose influence nevertheless can be traced in the thinking of the Enlightenment and the modern revolutions.

This chronicle entitled La Historia and the notes of its exegete present in detail the life of this imaginary civilization: its sexual practices, its gastronomy, its funeral rites, its commerce, its forms of war, its literature, its architecture, its loves, its diseases, its industry, its theology, its court intrigues, its end… A compendium of modern knowledge, crucible of false -or true?- quotations by Voltaire, Kyriakov, Sarmiento, Quevedo, Nietzsche or Bakunin, La Historia is a stimulating challenge for the reader, a monumental novel that works like a mirror that returns to us, in a distorted manner, our own time, its prejudices and acquired truths, its false tinsels and its just glories.

The result is a splurge of imagination, an exuberant text that could have been dreamt by Borges: one thousand mad, labyrinthine and necessary pages that mark a milestone in Latin American literature.

“A fictional monument that one reads with surprising pleasure and fluency. More than a novel, more than history, it is an encyclopedia of reading, whose decoding requires an internal map, catalogue, glossary and dictionary.” (Julio Ortega)

“A rich work, a risky undertaking that should be known.” 
(Juan Goytisolo).

“The most ambitious novel written on the continent since Terra Nostra by Carlos Fuentes.” (Héctor Aguilar Camín)

“Unusual because of this alliance of bookish skills and despotic fantasy, exercised without fear of exaggeration or extravagance.” (Beatriz Sarlo).

“Martín Caparrós proposal seems to have been to offer a foundational myth to his country, Argentine.” (Alberto Manguel).

“Something so disconcerting like the novel that Borges never wrote, a book endowed with everything that Borges apprehended in the ‘novel’ genre: a true monster of literary ambition and will.” (Alan Pauls)

“Caparrós invents, with great skill, a novel syntax. Its a beautiful Spanish, high-flying lyrical, that doesn’t correspond to any determined place nor epoch.” (La Nación)

“A mythical work.” (Clarín)

A work of art.” 
 (Los Inrockuptibles)

Publisher’s author information:

Martín Caparrós (Buenos Aires, 1957) got a degree in History in Paris, lived in Madrid and New York, directed book and cooking magazines, travelled half the world, translated Voltaire, Shakespeare and Quevedo, received the Premio Planeta Latinoamérica [Planeta Prize for Latinamerica], the premio Rey de España [King of Spain prize] and a Guggenheim fellowship. In Anagrama there have been published the novels A quien corresponda [To Whom It May Concern], Los Living [The Living] (Herralde Novel Prize 2011), Comí [I ate], and Echeverría; the chronicles Una luna [One Moon] and Contra el cambio. Un hiperviaje al apocalipsis climático [Against the change. A hypervoyage to the climate apocalypse]; and the essay El Hambre [Hunger].

Amazon.com offers in English Caparrós’ The Vanishing of the Mona Lisa: a Novel (2008; Valfierno 2004)

To this blogger Caparrós appears interesting due to his work on current affairs, and because a reviewer compared his monumental novel to those by David Foster Wallace, whose work your blogger appreciates a lot.

SOURCE: Anagrama (publisher)

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Snippet: Buades’ “Crui” (Crexells prize 2017)

Joan Buades, Crui. Els portadors de la torxa [Crui. The torchbearers], 2016, 301 p.

Premi Crexells 2017

The project summary came in Catalan, but the novel’s publisher, Edicions Aïllades, provides a (somewhat difficult to understand) summary in English.

Some additional information from the original project summary:

It’s a psychological novel with a historical background in which we get to know an old man who is about to celebrate his farewell to a rich and full life… until an unexpected event gets him to start a rap dive into his particular hells. Because, more than anything else, Crui is an exploration on the limits of Evil and our individual and collective capacity to construct perfect stories where life is made of darns and cracks. On the way we recuperate forgotten stories that are at the base of today’s Europe and the Mediterranean, marked by the sleepwalking of the elites, by the neoliberal delirium and by the permanent party of tourism. And we talk a walk in such diverse places as Barcelona, Königsberg, South Tyrol, Majorca, the City of London, Tànger, Ibiza, or Lemberg/Lviv, in a memorable periple.

The work is especially addressed to readers who like to spend pleasurable moments with documented novels, able to provoke in them at the same time fascination and repulsion of unexpected characters and environments. Feelings that will remain once you get to the last line…

 

According to the literary critic Julià Guillamon, the Crexells prize is “the most important one awarded for a published work written in Catalan.” Guillamon is not convinced of the work’s originality, he thinks its “narrative agility could be improved”, and he considers it “a lively novel, somewhat boiled”.

This blogger doesn’t know what to make of the novel, maybe he should read it. He generally prefers literary awards for published works to those (more common in Spain) by the publishing houses for unpublished works by favorite writers that garantee them good sales in exchange for a generous advance on royalties in the form of a literary prize with a prestigious name that often evokes a lost prestige of the past…

SOURCE: Edicions Aïllades; Verkami (crowd-funding site); “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, July 29, 2017, p. 7 [printed edition]

Snippet: Jordi Amat’s “Life of Josep Benet”

Jordi Amat, Com una pàtria. Vida de Josep Benet [Like a homeland. Life of Josep Benet], 2017, 584 p.

Publisher’s summary:

The life of Josep Benet (1920-2008) is the story of a country that fought to reconstruct its identity after defeat in the Spanish Civil War. If there ever was an activist who had the strength and tenacity to wander the whole parable of democratic antifranquisme  [resistance to the Franco regime], it was him. In his relations with the main scholars of his times -from Josep Pla to Joan Sales, or from Joan Fuster to Josep Maria de Sagarra- and working together with the new leaders of postwar [Catalan] nationalism -from Felix Millet to Jordi Pujol, from Jaume Vicens Vives to Abbot Escarré-, this politician and intellectual was an engine of civil society and one of its most outstanding protagonists during the second half of the 20th century.

Be it in the resistance or the Assamblea de Catalunya [Catalan assembly in opposition to Franco, 1971-1977], defending opposition figures before court-martials, or organizing the Festes de l’Entronització de Montserrat [church celebration developed into an act of resistance, 1947], Josep Benet became a key player of leftist catalanism during the Transition [to democracy], and he faced up with forcefulness to Josep Tarradellas.

This biography, based on hundreds of unpublished documents, narrates the milestones and vicissitudes of his struggle, and it discovers the faces of a complex personality that hid many secrets and was recognized as a transversal symbol.

 

SOURCE: Grup 62 (publisher)

Snippet: Sánchez Pardos’ “Lady of the Well”

Daniel Sánchez Pardos, La Dama del Pozo [The Lady of the Well], 2017, 448 p.

Another novel set in 19th century Barcelona, and Planeta, the publisher, offers a summary in English on its foreign rights pages.

“… a very good piece of crime fiction that glows, among other reasons, due to its great protagonist.”

Lilian Neumann in her review in “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, July 22, 2017, pp. 6-7.

Snippet: A literary discovery (not Iberian)

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While on holidays, on an afternoon trip to Essen, Germany, this blogger discovered an open air bookcase where everyone who passes by can take out books or leave them. The cabinet was clean and contained about 50 (also clean) books to choose from, some old ones, classics and unknown works, and also some recent ones; the great majority in German, but there were also some Spanish and English titles…

The location is in front of the Grillo Theatre, Theaterplatz (U-Bahn: Hirschlandplatz), and the bookcase was placed there by the Mercator Foundation (website). (Close by is a big bookstore, one of the reasons we came to Essen on a rainy afternoon: Meyersche Buchhandlung, which also sells a wide range of non-German works.) Other cabinets placed by the same foundation around the Ruhr area can be found here. (As far as your blogger find out, the project is considered finalized but still working…)

We took two books, and the next time we visit we will bring some to leave there. A nice way of bookcrossing without registers, etc….