Snippet: Ojeda’s “Jaw”


Mónica Ojeda, Mandíbula [Jaw], 2018, 288 p.

publisher’s summary and author information:

A female adolescent, a fanatic of horror and of “creepypastas” (horror stories that circulate on the internet), wakes up handcuffed in a hut in the middle of the woods. Her kidnapper is no stranger to her, but her Language and Literature teacher, a young woman whom the girl and her friends have tormented for months in an elite high school run by the Opus Dei. But quickly the motives of this kidnapping will reveal themselves as a lot darker than the “bullying” of a teacher: a disturbing juvenile love, an inexpected betrayal, and some secret rites of initiation inspired by those viral and terrifying histories generated on the internet.

Mandíbula is a novel on fear and its relation with family, sexuality, and violence. Narrated with a prose full of lyrical flashes, disconcerting symbols and jumps in time, it takes up traits of a psychological thriller to develop the mental game that takes place between students and teachers, and to dig into the passional relationships between mothers and daughters, sisters and “best friends,” recreating a world of the feminine-monstrous that connects with the tradition of horror movies and literature.

Mónica Ojeda (Guayaquil, Ecuador, 1988), M.A. in Literary Creation and Theory and Critique of Culture, taught Literature at the Catholic University of Santiago de Guayaquil. She currently lives in Madrid where she prepares a PhD in Humanities on Latin American porno-erotic literature.

She published the novels Nefando (2016) which received a spectacular reception by the critics, and La desfiguración Silva [The Silva disfigurement] (Alba Narrativa prize 2014). In 2017 she published the story “Caninos” [Canines], and another of her stories appeared in the anthology Emergencias. Doce cuentos iberoamericanos [Emergencies: Twelve Ibero-American stories] (2013). With El ciclo de las piedras [The stone cycle], her first poetry collection, she won the national poetry prize Desembarco 2015. She is part of the prestigious list “Bogotá 39-2017”, that gathers the decade’s most talented and projected 39 Latin American writers below age 40.


SOURCE: Candaya (publisher)


Snippet: Berta Vias’ “A borrowed life”

megustaleer - Una vida prestada - Berta Vias Mahou

Berta Vias, Una vida prestada [A borrowed life], 2018, 215 p.

publisher’s summary:

Who really was Vivian Maier, the great photographer? Why didn’t she ever want to show her pictures to anybody? How to explain so much mystery?

It needed Una vida prestada and Berta Vias’ talent to finally bring this dark woman to light and to have her tell her story.

Every self-portrait by Vivian Maier deepens her secret instead of resolving it. She looks from so far away in these pictures as if a ghost of herself walked incognito among the living, with the camera to the neck.”                             Antonio Muñoz Molina, El País

She was tall, big boned and with an energetic walk, as if life had given her a mission and she had to fulfill at whatever price. She wore ample coats, skirts and dresses that hid her knees, wide-rimmed hats and comfortable shows with low heels.

We can imagine her walking the streets of New York or Chicago in the 1960s and leading by the hands some children, because Vivian Maier, the great photographer who now receives the international applause by the press and the public, during all of her life was neither more nor less than a nanny, a woman without a family, childless and without her own home.

The only thing that she always felt very much her own was a camera that accompanied her everywhere, hanging from her neck or hidden in a pocket. Thus, she robbed some girls’ smile, the acid grin of an old woman, or her own gaze, full of questions. Thousands of negatives rested for a long time in old boxes, and only after her death somebody began to reveal to the world the genius of her work.

Vivian Maier. a mysterious woman who finally speaks thanks to the imagination and talent of Berta Vias, who has lent her a full life.


«I am. You are… What have you been? A spy without pay. An artist without audience. A woman without children. Always hidden behind yourself. You didn’t like seeing yourself. You never liked it. Always looking inside or beyound your shadow, even though, despite everything, you observed yourself. Not much, because right away you pushed the button, there opened the shutter, and click, there remained for ever your silhouette, in the waters’ mirror, in the waves of a cornucopia, or on the soft and smooth surface of a metal sphere, multiplied to the infinite. Everywhere and nowhere, because you were there without being there, you were without being, as if you had no life and your name no importance.»


from J.A. Masoliver Ródenas’ review:

The rigour of the investigation transforms into narrated life. … everything the reader needs to know about the protagonist, Vivian Maier (NY, 1926 – Chicago, 2009), is faithfully registered. […]

The variety of registers is enormous. […]

Una vida prestada, another excellent novel by Berta Vias, has got the full taste of the authentic.


The writer Berta Vias Mahou (Madrid, 1961) already appeared in this 2014 post on “Spain’s Great Untranslated”.

After seeing the interesting subject and the enthusiastic reviews, this blogger will put Vias on his reading list.

SOURCE: Lumen (PRH, publisher); review in “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, March 24, 2018, pp. 8-9 [printed edition]

Snippet: Baulenas’ “Friends forever”

Lluís-Anton Baulenas, Amics per sempre [Forever friends], 2017, 344 p.

PREMI DE NOVEL·LA CIUTAT D’ALZIRA (Alzira city novel prize)

publisher’s summary:

Ferran Simó has turned into a dog. The war of the Balcans [early 1990s], into which he has seen himself immersed nearly by chance, has reduced his will to that of an animal and he has accepted this. Only luck will save him from dying and enabling him to return home, to a euphoric Barcelona that is about to inaugurate the Olympic Summer Games [1992]. Thanks to a friend’s unusual proposal he changes his identity and gets to know two young women with whom he starts a relationship that could change his life if the shadows of the past don’t prevent it.

from a review

Full of irony but without concessions, Amics per sempre questions the hypocrisy of the Olympic celebration while Jugoslavia made havoc with one of the most cruel military conflicts since World War II. It is also a complaint against the passivity of governments and international institutions in front of that reality, and by extension, in the face of any war. The inoperability, silence, and shame.


Lluís-Anton Baulenas (Barcelona, 1958) is a writer, translator and playwright (Wikipedia).

This blogger really liked Baulenas’ historical novel La Felicitat [Happiness].

SOURCE: Bromera (publisher);

Snippet: Zafra’s “Enthusiasm” (an essay)

Remedios Zafra, El entusiasmo. Precariedad y trabajo creativo en la era digital [Enthusiasm: precariousness and creative work in the digital age], 2017, 264 p.

Anagrama essay prize 2017

publisher’s summary:

El entusiasmo is a generational book about those who were born at the end of the 20th century, and who grew up without epic but with expectations, until the crisis laid the bases for a new scenario that has become structural; the scenario of precariousness and disillusion. So, a book with the vocation of an epoch, an essay on the precarious subject in contemporary cultural, creative and academic jobs within the framework of the neoliberal agenda and the net world. An essay that questions how vocation and enthusiasm are instrumentalized today by a system that favours anxiety, conflict and dependence in benefit of competitive hyperproduction and speed.

The beaurocratization of the life of cultural workers runs the risk of neutralizing them, nullifying the subjects that should devote themselves to investigation and creation, tiring them before they can ally themselves and put up demands, abut also turning off their intellectual passion. The risk is the loss of the most valuable: the freedom that turns human creativity into something transformative. And using just this freedom, El entusiasmo portrays the forms of precariousness from the small, intertwining the ethnographic and the literary description, so that unforeseen characters, more typical of a novel, enter the game to reflect on the complexity of the scenario and the contradictions of our time.

The paths of dialogue and profound thinking normally don’t work in the fast networks and in precarious times; they require pause, tolerance for ambiguity, negotiation, empathy …, but it is suggested here that maybe they are the truly revolutionary for those who create them. These processes of awareness and frustration describe a generation of connected people who navigate in this century’s beginning between the precariousness of the job market and a creative passion that pierces them (by feeling it, having felt it, losing it).


Remedios Zafra (Zuhéros, Córdoba, 1973) is a writer and professor at the University of Sevilla.

SOURCE: Anagrama (publisher)

Two novels on Spain’s loss of the Philippines

Juan Manuel de Prada, Morir bajo tu cielo [Dying under your sky], 2014, 747 p.

publisher’s summary:

One of the most heroic and unknown episodes in Spanish history, narrated by one of the most brilliant writers of contemporary literature: the desaster of 1898 and the loss of the Philippines in Juan Manuel de Prada’s latest literary delivery.

Between June 30, 1898, and June 2, 1899, a Spanish unit resisted the siege by Philippine troops, superior in number, in a church in the village Baler, on Luzón island, also when these lands were not Spanish any longer. These soldiers would go down in history as “the last of the Philippines.”

In Morir bajo tu cielo, taking this episode as an inspiration, Juan Manuel de Prada proposes an immersion into the Philippines of the time, through unforgettable characters that will stay in the readers’ hearts and minds: officials wounded by a secret pain, gun-wielding priests, soldiers treated as cannon fodder by their superiors, Philippine insurgents full of greatness and courage, weapons dealers without scruples, and exceptional women who have to be like that in a scary and turbulent world. The readers accompany them in their physical and dialectical battles to barracks and palaces, opium dens and brothels, night meetings of the frightful Katipunan, jungles watched by the ferocious ilongots, mangroves infected by alligators, and estates where one still breathes the perfume of Arcadia, before coming all together in Baler, where they will meet their destiny.

An epic and intimate novel, an adventure novel and a novel of ideas, Morir bajo tu cielo is also a tribute to so many men and women who made up for the ineptitude of disastrous rulers with will, courage, personal sacrifices and love for their neighbors.


Planeta offers this author information in English.

from Carles Barba’s review:

J.M. de Prada has fictionalized the fall of Spain’s last overseas bastion, and he assures the start of a cycle of different volumes. […] [The author] has reconstructed the epoch in an imaginative way… preceded by a minute immersion in the Philippines of the times. … with very individualized characters […] Never, by the way, J.M. de Prada looked so much like a South American author as in this work. […] But J.M. de Prada wrote his Philippines novel with the mortar of classic Spanish literature (from Romancero to Lope), and above all, rendering tribute to Cervantes and his greatest book.


Virgina Yagüe, La última princesa del Pacífico [The last princess of the Pacific], 2014, 446 p.

Planeta offers an English summary on its foreign rights page.

from Carles Barba’s review:

Definitely a good debut by Virginia Yagüe who braids a suggestive story of overcoming in a Pacific being devoured by the great powers.

Yagüe (Madrid, 1973) had already published a novel in 2009 called El Marqués [The marquis]. She is a mainly a scriptwriter and producer of TV series.


Since 2014, Juan Manuel de Prada has published two more novels, El castillo de diamante [The diamond castle; publisher’s summary (2015)], and Mirlo blanco, cisne negro [White blackbird, black swan; publisher’s summary (2016)].

SOURCE: Espasa (Planeta, publisher de Prada); Planeta (publisher Yagüe); review by Carles Barba in “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, Jan. 14, 2015 [printed edition]

Snippet: Amat’s “Before the hurricane”

Kiko Amat, Antes del huracán [Before the hurricane], 2018, 432 p.

publisher’s summary:

The year 2017. Curro has spent the last twenty years in the psychiatric hospital Santa Dympna, in Sant Boi de Llobregat [near Barcelona], because of a grave outbreak of homicidal madness. But Curro is fed up with being a mental patient, he wants to escape and needs a plan. For this there is nobody better than the loyal Plácido, a butler with starched plastron and a shiny bald head, pathological citator of Churchill and an able person. While the boss and the servant, united by an oath, plan their escape, the readers start to discover the terrible past that ended the protagonist’s sanity.

It’s 1982 and Curro, a weak, 12 year old child surrounded by tics and phobias, fights to overcome the traumas of his life: his grandfather’s dementia, his father’s mysterious athletic eagerness, his mother’s obesity, the fist-fights with his brother and the abuse of the local bullies. Curro and his best friend Priu -lanky, precociously hirsute, a genius-, real nerds, strange from birth, survive as they can in the urban outskirts, land of the normal people. Until the day the hurricane breaks out, and all the lies, all the accumulated secrets of the family and the village destroy his world for good.

Antes del huracán is a sad and hilarious work that talks about being different, and f***ed, in a village of Barcelona’s periphery. In his fifth novel, Kiko Amat combines melancholy and humor to explore the paths that lead from rarity to delirium. An unforgettable story of madness, family, working class and friendship in the desolate countryside of the outskirts – concrete, spikelets, waste ground, electric towers and unpaved streets -, with the 1980s, the Falklands war and the soccer world cup of 1982 in the background.

publisher’s author information:

Kiko Amat (1971) was born in Sant Boi de Llobregat, in the Barcelona periphery. His father was a rugby player and his mother an assistant nurse at the local mental hospital. He quit school at age 17 to become a mod, a kleptomaniac, a dj, a cashier at McDonald’s, a worker at Seat Martorell’s assembly line, a campsite guard, a delivery hand for commercial flyers, and a waiter at a big hotel. He has published the novels El día que me vaya no se lo diré a nadie [The day I leave I won’t tell anybody] (2003); Cosas que hacen BUM [Things that make boom] (2007); Rompepistas [Trackbreaker] (2009), and Eres el mejor, Cienfuegos [You’re the best, A-hundred-fires] (2012). He is also the author of the non-fiction books Mil violines [A thousand violins] (2011) and Chap chap (2015). He regularly contributes to El País‘ “Babelia”, El Periódico and La Vanguardia‘s “Cultura/S”, and since 2011 he his the co-director of CCCB’s Primera Persona festival [Barcelona Centre for Contemporary Culture’s “first person” literary festival].

Anagrama offers this information on Amat’s previous books.

This blogger likes Amat’s journalistic work, but didn’t have the patience to finish Rompepistas [“trackbreaker”], a novel that has been compared to Trainspotting by Carlos Zanón.

There is a 2014 article on Kiko Amat on this blog.

SOURCE: Anagrama (publisher)