Snippet: Sant Jordi prize to Joan-Lluís Lluís, and other laureates

On Dec. 15, 2017, the Catalan cultural organization Òmnium Cultural celebrated its traditional “Santa Lucia night” and awarded different writers with their annual awards. The Sant Jordi novel prize is one of the most important for a novel written in Catalan, and this year’s winner is Joan-Lluís Lluís with the novel entitled Joc sóc aquell que va matar Franco [I’m the one who killed Franco].

Josep Massot gave the following summary in La Vanguardia:

The novel starts as a realistic narration and turns slowly into a uchronia: the moment in which Franco, hurried on by Hitler, declares war against the Allies on June 15, 1940.

Joan-Lluís Lluís is a novel writer with a long maduration. He has got an idea, writes a few scenes, and after a few years he turns to it again. […] The protagonist of this novel is Agustí Vilamat, born in 1916 in Solsona. Due to an absurd accident, he loses an eye at age 5. He is a shy, clumsy boy who discovers written Catalan through a children’s magazine. As an adult he works as a linguistic corrector in Barcelona. As a soldier during the [Spanish] Civil War, he is a disaster, because one-eyed he can’t shoot with security and he carries everywhere a Fabra dictionary [Catalan] that he knows by heart. The war doesn’t end in 1939 [as in reality], because Franco crosses the Pyrenees, and a bombardment of the Argelers [France] refugee camp kills the girl that Vilamat was in love with; but soon, as the Allies invade the Iberian peninsula to liberate it from fascism, Vilamat gets a chance to take revenge. “I don’t hide that the description of Franco’s death is a literary revenge,” said the laureate. “How many things would have been avoided!”

The other prizes and their winners:

Carles Riba (poetry) to Josep Maria Fulquet for the poem Ample vol de nit [Wide night flight]

Mercè Rodoreda (short stories) to Clara Queraltó for El que pensen els altres [What the others think]

 Juvenile literature to Ivan Ledesma for Negorith

Child literature not awarded

New prizes for published works (20,000 € to the author and 5,000 € to the publisher):

Raül Garrigasait, Els estranys [The strangers], cf. Feb. 2017 post

Vicenç Pagès Jordà, Robinson

Maria Guasch, Els fills de Llacuna Park [The children of Lagoon Park]


SOURCE: La Vanguardia, Dec. 16, 2017, pp. 42-43 [printed edition]


Snippet: Elvira Valgañón’s “Winter”


Elvira Valgañón, Invierno [Winter], 2017, 136 p.

publisher’s summary:

At the beginning of winter 1809, a soldier escapes from the rows of Napoleon’s army because he didn’t go to war to kill civilians. The deserter, dying, is taken in at a small village in the Sierra until… Lifes and secrets, unvoiced passions and blind hopes cross during more than one and a half centuries in the streets and meadows of this little village without any other magic (despite the haunted house or a scarecrow that tries to understand the word) than life; a place, houses, squares, woods, sky, caves, where the air smells like snow and frost crystals, where the winters are always long.

Children who dream, old people who don’t want to forget, men and women who endure days in which everything seems winter. But not everything is what it seems, because in this novel, an amount of stories that mix like the beech’s leaves fallen on a path, Elvira Valgañón allows a glimpse at beauty and piety as the best resources to make life and literature a habitable place.

A moving work by a writer interested in details and the essential, attentive to the sounds and the silences of words. A writer, Elvira Valgañón, that still needs to be discovered by the general public; we are particularly proud to publish her novel.


The writer Elvira Valgañon (Logroño, La Rioja, 1977) studied Spanish and English philology. In 2007 she published Luna Cornata [Cornata moon].


This book was recommended on RTVE’s Página 2 (Spanish state tv’s weekly literary program).

Have a good start into the cold season and MERRY CHRISTMAS (cf. Luke 2)!

SOURCE: Pepitas de Calabaza (“pumpkin seeds”, publisher)

Snippet: Ustrell’s “Without you”

megustaleer - Sense tu - Ricard Ustrell

Ricard Ustrell, Sense tu [Without you], 2017, 192 p.

Publisher’s summary:

A well-known radio host decides to abandon his work and life in Barcelona to got to Paris alone.

Nobody understands his behavior: before going he declined a job offer that he had desired for years and he left his mother, very sick, in a residency for the elderly. He is the only one who knows the motive for his reaction, and he wants it to stay like that, at least until it becomes inevitable. But on the streets of the French capital, he will regain hope and find the strength to face the future, whatever it may be.

This blogger finds that the publisher’s short summary hints at a quite foreseeable, emotion-laden novel, and he normally prefers “real” writers for novels instead of journalists writing fiction –Ustrell himself is a well-know radio host–, but Llucia Ramis mentioned it in her weekly column, so it might be interesting…

SOURCE: Rosa dels Vents (PRH Spain, publisher); La Vanguardia, Dec. 16, 2017, p. 44

Snippet: Néstor Sánchez’ “Manhattan diary”

Néstor Sánchez, Diario de Manhattan [Manhattan diary], 2017 (reissue), 80 p.


Néstor Sánchez didn’t leave any footprints of his wanderings in Europe, South America and North America between the 1970s and 80s in any of his books, with the exception of this diary, chronicle, story, poetic narration of a life experience out in the open of this island mentioned in the title, into which one bursts as would do a constructor of “credibles”[?]. In the decade of the 1960s, [Manuel] Puig [Wikipedia] and Sánchez went hand in hand on their roads to canonization as “renovators of Hispano-American letters,” in the words of Ángel Rama. They were nearly of the same age (Puig three years older) and had published their first novels nearly at the same time (Nosotros dos in 1966 and La traición de Rita Hayworth in 1968). But in the 1970s, when Sánchez started to be known in Europe (Gallimard published his first work, entitled Nous deux in Paris, translated by Albert Bensoussan, and Seix Barral published in Barcelona his other novels: Siberia blues, Cómico de la lengua and El amhor, los orsinis y la muerte), suddenly he saw or felt himself dragged by a call to silence, to abandon the “writer’s career” to plunge into a search for unmitigated self-knowledge, as he himself would call it. A silence that he would break only once by publishing at the end of the 1980s, already back in Buenos Aires, the series of stories that he would call La condición efímera [The ephemeral condition] and, within this book, the powerful Diario de Manhattan. (Osvaldo Baigorria)

“The dispossession as the condition of great literature. The Beckett, Céline, Néstor Sánchez option: the writer as a tramp, the writer who stammers.” (Ricardo Piglia)

“Sánchez tries a vast register of echoes and he achieves it: for some moments, reading and listening lose their differences. His writing resolves in a writing that is at the same time the myth of reading: this privileged moment in which illusively the crack of the I, the contradictions and the breach are erased.” (Osvaldo Lamborghini)

The Wikipedia in Spanish offers this information on the Argentine author’s life:

Néstor Sánchez was an Argentine writer and translator (Buenos Aires, 1935-2003). He is known as one of the least exposed and weirdest authors of his country, and for the special manner in which he composed his works, that were not only experimental but also extravagant and rich, centered nearly always on the city where he was born. His life was marked by roaming between the different continents, with a long stay in the US. He was a friend of Julio Cortázar, who always heartily supported and praised his literary creations. His works have been rediscovered through recent reissues. Of his novel Nosotros dos it was said: “The best novel written after [Roberto] Arlt [Wikipedia].”

There exists a website in Spanish dedicated to the author.

If the Wikipedia article calls him “weird”, what can one expect…?

SOURCE: La Central (bookstore); Wikipedia (consulted on Dec. 15, 2017)

Snippet: Andrés Barba’s “Bright republic”

Andrés Barba, República luminosa [Bright republic], 2017, 192 p.

winner of the 35th Herralde Novel Prize

publisher’s summary:

What needs to happen so that we see ourselves forced to redefine our idea of childhood? The appearance of 32 violent children of unknown origin completely disrupts the life of San Cristóbal, a small tropical city, squeezed in between the jungle and the river. 20 years later one of its protagonists writes this República luminosa, a chronicle woven of facts, proofs and rumours of how the city saw itself forced to reformulate not only its idea of order and violence but also that of civilization itself during that year and a half during which, until their death, the children took the city. Tense and distressing, with the clarity of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Barba adds here to his usual narrative audacity and his talent for ambiguous situations, the dimension of a metaphysical and dark fable that has got the breath of the great stories.

J.A. Masoliver Ródenas called it “brilliant”.

Barba’s publisher, Anagrama, offers a Foreign Rights page in English with more information on the author and the titles available in English and other languages. There is also a Wikipedia article.

SOURCE: Anagrama (publisher); review in “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, Dec. 2, 2017, p. 6 [printed edition; online availabe at the publisher’s page]

Snippet: “Naming Central America” (literary but not Iberian)

From Nov. 25 to Dec. 3, 2017 took place the Guadalajara International Bookfair (FIL). Its guest of honor was Madrid, near year’s will be Portugal, but there also took place a meeting called “Nombrar a Centroamérica” [Naming Central America; website]. Writers from the region met, and among other things, remembered the 50th anniversary of the Nobel Prize in Literature being awarded to Miguel Ángel Asturias from Guatemala in 1967. His best-known book is The President, a pioneering work in the genre of “dictator-novels”.

El País dedicated 80% of one of its culture pages to the event and here are some further excerpts of the article by Javier Rodríguez Marcos:

It could be said that for a Central American writer it is easier to add up prizes than readers. … So what has happened in the region that one talks about its literature again? “What has happened is peace,” answers Claudia Neira, the director of the Centroamérica Cuenta [Central America tells] festival [Nicaragua; website in Spanish]. “It so happened that the political context doesn’t any longer oblige the young people to take the path of either military service, of war or of exile. A lot of them were born in the 1980s, just when institutional normality returned to their countries, even though the problems and a violence of non-political roots survive.” Neira concedes it is still to be seen what happens to the generation that today lives surrounded by the maras [youth gangs] and drug trafficking, but she insists there exists a series of “educated, well-read, and widely traveled” authors… They face the reality of their countries with a cosmopolitan view – several of them have been scholarship students at universities in the United States – and without defeatism.

[The article then mentions some of these younger and older authors:]

José Adiak (Nicaragua, 1987), Lennon bajo el sol [Lennon under the sun] – what if the Beatles were Central American;

Catalina Murillo (Costa Rica, 1970), Tiembla memoria [Tremble memory] – an immigrant’s life in Madrid;

Erick Blandón (Nicaragua; blog in Spanish; book and author information in English), Vuelo de cuervos [The ravens’ flight] – cult book published anew 20 years after its original publication, about the forced resettlement of indigenous Caribbean islanders;

Giovanni Rodríguez (Honduras, 1980; WordPress blog in Spanish), La caída del mundo [The fall of the world] – from San Pedro Sula, the “most violent city in the world”;

Luis Diego Guillén (Costa Rica, 1972; blog in Spanish), La alquimia de la bestia [The beast’s alchemy] – showing the reality of his country, once called “the Switzerland of Central America”.

These authors are published by small publishers, such as Uruk (Costa Rica) with average print runs of 500 copies. This blogger hasn’t managed to find any of their books as translated into English (yet).

SOURCE: El País, Dec. 2, 2017, p. 26 [printed edition; also online]


Snippet: Puntí’s “This is not America”

Jordi Puntí, Això no és Amèrica [This is not America], 2017, 224 p.

publisher’s summary:

There is someone who remembers a love [affair, loved one] while he or she walks the streets of the Eixample neighborhood to trace a letter with their steps. There is the man with the briefcase who does hitch-hiking at Vic exit. There is Gori, in a village of northern Catalonia [i.e. Southern France; since 1659] who receives letters by a brother with whom he hasn’t been in touch during years. There is the man who wants to present his wife with a journey to Paris, but who changes this journey for a cruise alone on a vessel where Sam Cortina sings. There is the prodigious story of Mike (formerly Miquel) Franquesa and his peculiar relationship with casinos. And finally, wrapping it all up, there is the writer who travels to Nancy to complete, to the full satisfaction of the readers, his work as a story traveler.

Fifteen years after those Animals tristos [Sad animals], Jordi Puntí returns with a volume of stories that portrays his stylistic and thematic evolution during that time. These are nine stories of adult age, exercises of “un-loving”, portraits of characters on the run and rebells in search of their place in the world.

As to Puntí’s biography and bibliography, the Wikipedia offers this article in English. Puntí’s previous novel, Lost Luggage, is avaible in English, too.

SOURCE: Grup 62 (Planeta, publisher)