Snippet: “The Heretic” by Miguel Delibes

Image of The Heretic by Miguel Delibes

Miguel Delibes, El hereje [The Heretic], 1998 [2006, translation; summary]

A review by Samantha Schnee can be found here; the Wikipedia has got an article on Miguel Delibes.

It’s one of the favorite Spanish novels (and writers) ever of this blogger, and the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is a good day to remember the book.

Other protestants in fiction can be found in this article by The Guardian.


Snippet: Lorenzo Silva’s “They will remember your name”

Lorenzo Silva, Recordarán tu nombre [They will remember your name], 2017, 496 p.

Publisher’s summary:

In this novel Lorenzo Silva narrates in the first person how he discovered one of the most heroic and tragic moments of Spanish history, surprisingly forgotten by nearly everybody. A key event marked by the antagonism between two men. The history of the military coup in Barcelona on July 19, 1936, the General Goded’s challenge of the republican legality, and General Aranguren’s, the top responsible of the Guardia Civil, decision, who chose to defend democracy.

Aranguren’s refusal to collaborate with the coup and his faithfulness to the Republic are part of our history, but a part that is seldom narrated. And the fact that this is one of our least known and most awkward episodes turns it into one of the best stories that the literature on the Civil War can give us.

This is the story of a forgotten hero. A man who was able to set loyalty and his sense of duty before the orders of those who would end up in power.

The critic Jordi Amat agrees that the General Aranguren is a fascinating figure and that Silva managed to collect quite a lot of important material in his book, but he doubts that it works as a novel:

“He soaked in the best bibliography, he talked to the descendants of the protagonist and he searched the archives. … As a biographic reconstruction, the book works. … More doubtful, on the other hand, is to determine if the transformation of this information is a magnetic narrative artefact as pretended by a good novel. The story couldn’t be more forceful and had to be explained, but so much meticulousness tires the reader because the commotion of the facts lies, above all, not in the precision but in the effectiveness with which they are reworked.”

This blogger enjoyed some of Silva’s crime novels in the past. There is 2015 post on one of his books.

At the same time as Silva’s novel, there appeared Sonsoles Ónega’s Después del amor, set also in the Barcelona of the Spanish Civil War (blog post).


SOURCE: Destino (Planeta, publisher); review in “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, July 8, 2017, pp. 4-5 [printed edition]

Snippet: Portuguese books for fall 2017

During the fall of 2017, the Portuguese market will see quite a few translations from English, Spanish and Norwegian (Nesbo and Knausgard). The Portuguese novelties are named in the same chronological order of publication as given at the source:

Trilogia do Lótus - Livro 3: O Reino do Meio

José Rodrigues dos Santos, O Reino do Meio [The Meio Kingdom], last book of the Trilogia do Lótus (Gradiva (publisher))

José Luís PeixotoCaminho Imperfeito [Imperfect path], a travel book (Quetzal)

António Lobo AntunesAté que as Pedras se Tornem Mais Leves que a Água [Until the stones become lighter than water] (Dom Quixote)


Estevão AzevedoTempo de Espalhar Pedras [Time to spread stones], a pungent portrait of dehumanization in today’s Brazil, published there already in 2014 (Cotovia)

Dulce Maria Cardoso, a new novel in November whose title hasn’t been revealed yet (Tinta-da-china)

Hélia CorreiaUm Bailarino na Batalha [A dancer in the battle] (Relógio d’Água)

Kalaf Epalanga, singer of the group Buraka Som Sistema, a novel whose name hasn’t been revealed yet (Caminho) - Quando as Girafas Baixam o Pescoço

Sandro William JunqueiraQuando as Girafas Baixam o Pescoço [When giraffes lower their neck], a kind of citizen’s fable (Caminho)

Ricardo Araújo Pereira, a new work without a title yet (Tinta-da-china)

Quetzal publishers will continue with new editions of the works of José Eduardo Agualusa, Relógio d’Água those of Agustina Bessa-Luís, and Porto Editora those of José Saramago.

This blogger will try to dedicate individual articles to some of these books.

SOURCE: Público, Sept. 15, 2017

Snippet: Planeta 2017 to Javier Sierra

Javier Sierra (Teruel, 1971), “the king of Spanish conspirative thriller” (C. Geli, El País), won this years Planeta novel prize (edition no. 66) for El fuego invisible [The invisible fire, 480 p.]. Sierra is best known for La cena secreta [The secret supper: a novel] (2004) and El ángel perdido [The lost angel: a novel] (2011).

El fuego invisible is Sierra’s eighth novel. Its protagonist is a young university professor and researcher from Dublin who spends a few days in Madrid. There he gets into dangerous investigations following the traces of the mythic Holy Grail. The novel, according to its author, “revolves around a word invented in the 12th century: Grail. And around the question of where the ideas come.”

“A fast-paced narration and a tremendous erudition about the topic (the author tends to have visited all the scenarios where his plots happen) mark a novel that fits well with the Sierra brand, well defined already in 1998 when he debuted with La dama de azul [The lady in blue: a novel] in which, using the figure of the 17th century nun María Jesús de Ágreda, detained by the Inquisition, he plays with his famous bilocations to weave a plot with psychic CIA spies and experts from the Vatican. The success… was ratified with The Secret Supper, which he constructed from supposed criptic messages on the canvas of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci and that brought Sierra to global fame, being published in 42 countries and selling more than three million copies. … He has been called the Spanish Dan Brown, but better documented.”

Another novel by Sierra available in English is El maestro del Prado [The master of the Prado: a novel].

Runner-up, by many considered the really important work as to literary quality, was Cristina López Barrio (Madrid, 1970) with Niebla en Tánger [Fog in Tanger, 320 p.], “in which the monotonous life of a young deaf woman turns into a fast-paced intrigue after spending a night with a mysterious stranger.”

“… even though she started out with juvenile literature, López Barrio has found a balance between fast-paced investigations and female psychological portraits. She already did so in her first adult novel, La casa de los amores imposibles [The house of impossible loves] (2015; translated into 15 languages), about a saga of women condemned to suffer from love; she then followed the thread with El cielo en un infierno cabe [Heaven fits into one hell] (2013) and Tierra de brumas [Land of fog] (2015); and she repeats it in Niebla en Tánger, where a young woman with an anodyne life, after spending a night with a man, finds herself involved in a mysterious plot. The only clue of her lover is given by the novel that he left on the bedside table, that will coincide with his real life. ‘It is something very close to my history, an emotional journey by a woman in crisis who is searching to find herself’.”


This blogger doesn’t like Dan-Brown-like mystery novels and won’t read this year’s Planeta, maybe have a look at the runner-up’s older novel…

SOURCE: El País, Oct. 16, 2017; Planeta (publisher)

Snippet: Valentim Alexandre’s “Against the Wind” (non-fiction)

Valentim Alexandre, Contra O Vento: Portugal, O Império e A Maré Anticolonial (1945-1960) [Against the wind: Portugal, the empire and the anti-colonial tide, 1945-1960], 2017, 840 p.

Publisher’s summary:

With the end of World War II the menace of partition of the Portuguese colonies faded away, giving way to a new menace – that of decolonization, first in Asia and then in Africa. The present book is about the evolution of the Portuguese colonial system in this new situation – studying the decolonization and the resistances that Portugal opposed, not, as is common practice, from a short-time perspective (focusing in the period from the revolution of 25 April 1974 to the date of Angola’s proclamation of independence on 11 November of the following year) but through the analysis of a longer time and in comparative order. […] It should be noted however, that this is no a work on Salazar and his policy.

From the documents of its archive – and with recourse to, wherever necessary, to sources of a different nature – , we tried to go furhter, following the evolution of the Empire in its different aspects: colonial politics; colonial economy; foreign politics; the relations between the Portuguese state and the Catholic Church; and military and police defense. (from the introduction)

Valentim Alexandre (Lisbon, 1942) is a researcher of the Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa [Institute of Social Sciences at Lisbon University]. He has published on Portuguese colonial history and on Portuguese foreign relations, as books:

Os Sentidos do Império [The senses of empire] (Porto, Afrontamento, 1993);

O Império Africano, 1825-1890 [The African empire, 1825-1890] (coordinated with Jill Dias), (Lisboa, Editorial Estampa, 1998);

Velho Brasil, Novas Áfricas – Portugal e o Império, 1808-1975 [Old Brazil, new Africas – Portugal and the empire, 1808 – 1975] (Porto, Afrontamento, 2000);

O Roubo das Almas – Salazar, a Igreja e os Totalitarismos 1830-1839 [The theft of souls – Salazar, the Church and the totalitarianisms, 1830 – 1839] (Lisboa, Dom Quixote, 2006)

Alexandre contributed extensively to the volume IV of História da Expansão Portuguesa [History of Portuguese expansion], directed by Francisco Bettencourt and Kirti Chaudhuri (Lisboa, 1998).

According to a review, the book portrays the Cold War context in which all of this took place and the decolonization of especially the French and British empires that happened at the same time. Countries that became independent from Portugal were Goa [to be incorporated by India], Macau [PRC] and Timor in Asia, and Angola, Guinea Bissau and Mozambique in Africa.

SOURCE: Temas e debates (publisher); Diário de Notícias, October 15, 2017

Snippet: Carlos Zanón’s “Taxi”


Carlos Zanón, Taxi, 2017, 368 p.

Publisher’s summary:

«We need to talk», says Lola to her husband during breakfast. He responds that they will do it in the evening, once his shift on the taxi has finished. Sandino is a melancholic man who doubts if returning home as he fears that Lola, fed up with his infidelities, will leave him. He’s not sure if he would like that to happen, as he doesn’t know either if he likes being a taxi driver, if he’s able to love somebody, or if everything consists of continuing to roll and to hit, like a ball on a pool table called Barcelona.

During seven days and its six nights Sandino roams the streets and neighborhoods like a broken doll that runs away from itself, a predator that wanders aimlessly around, from place to place, always according to a customer’s wish, or due to boredom or to the occasion to cauterize the wound in the most carnal manner. And while this particular odyssee lasts, in his mind there mix and weave the stories of passengers, friends, and enemies, a tangle of memories and ghosts of the past that draw an existential map of his life, of the life of the city and of those who live there. Thus, maybe, in his escape to the nothing, Sandino is able to get free from his bandages, from his spurious loves, and from the surroundings that pinch him, to reach a place where he has never been.

The narrative force, the hynotic rhythm imbued with musical echos, and the psychological depth of Taxi represent a qualitative jump in Carlos Zanón’s work. The avatars of Sandino configure a unique characters that will remain in the memory of those who enjoy good literature.

Carlos Zanón (Barcelona, 1966) is poet, scriptwriter, columnist and literary critic. He published his first poems in the late 1980s and has published seven volumes so far, lauded by the critics. As a narrator, he debuted in 2008 with the novel Nadie ama a un hombre [Nobody loves a man]. After that he published Tarde, mal y nunca [Late, bad and never] (2009, Premio Brigada 21 for the best first crime novel of the year), No llames a casa [Don’t call at home] (2012, Premio Valencia Negra for the best crime novel of the year), Yo fui Johnny Thunders (2013, Premio Salamanca Negra 2014, Novelpol 2015 and Dashiell Hammett [?] 2015) and the story collection Marley estaba muerto (2015). His work has been translated and published in the USA , the Netherlands, France, Italy, and Germany.

During many years, Zanón made a living as a lawyer. During an interview a critic remarked that Zanón’s characters speak a Catalanized Spanish, which is meant to render authenticity. The chapters of Taxi bear the names of The Clash songs, a kind of soundtrack in the background. When asked for his favorite Barcelona novels, Zanón answered:

Francisco Casavella, El día del Watusi [Watusi’s day]

Juan Marsé, Últimas tardes con Teresa [The last afternoons with Teresa]

Lluís-Anton Baulenas, La felicitat [Happiness]

Miqui Otero, Rayos [Rays]


Carlos Zanón has got a website. In English there is available The Barcelona Brothers.

This blogger finds it attractive that there is a Clash soundtrack and that the protagonist of Taxi likes the Chilean writer Lina Meruane, author of Seeing Red.

SOURCE: Salamandra (publisher); author interview in “Babelia“, El País, Sept. 30, 2017, pp. 8-9.