Snippet: Best books Spain 2018 (La Vanguardia)

The Spanish daily La Vanguardia asked its own critics and culture journalists for their opinions and published lists of different categories;  following here are the Top 5 in Catalan and Spanish fiction, and a link to the respective blog article if there is one.


  1. Eva Baltasar, Permagel, article
  2. Sergi Pàmies, L’art de portar gavardina, article
  3. Irene Solà, Els dics [The dams]
  4. Pol Beckmann, Novel·la [Novel]
  5. Núria Cadenes, Secundàris, article


  1. Manuel Vilas, Ordesa, article
  2. Sara Mesa, Cara de pan, article
  3. Álvaro Enrigue, Ahora me rindo y eso es todo, article
  4. Antonio Soler, Sur, article
  5. Samanta Schweblin, Kentukis

SOURCE: La Vanguardia, Dec. 22, 2018, p. 44 [printed edition]

Snippet: Blas Malo’s “The Venetian”

El veneciano

Blas Malo, El veneciano [The Venetian], 2018, 432 p.

publisher’s summary:

Suspicions everywhere. Nobody’s safe. And in the Ducal palace everything’s dreary. Europe tears itself apart in war. France battles against Austria and England, and Venice defends its neutrality, but the voracious French troops of the ambitious general Bonaparte have expanded all over Veneto, and they have spread their venom through his agents.

The militias, hastily united by the foresightful Venetians, instead of submitting to the rebels, have thrown themselves like a horde against the disciplined French, willing to rush like wolves against the Most Serene Republic.

While Venice sleeps, still safe surrounded by its lagoon, with the Council hastily united by the Doge, fists hit the tables of noble woods, and the accusations made with condemnatory index fingers resound like thunder, even after declaring the emergency meeting as finished. And Marco Lascaris, a salt merchant, offspring of an old Byzantine lineage, doesn’t suspect at all that this secret meeting has put his life and that of his family at risk, in an inexorable countdown.

Neutrality cracks. Very few senators refuse to give in before Napoleon. And only one of them is willing to do everything to preserve the Most Serene Republic of Venice.

The author

Blas Carlos Malo Poyatos (Alcázar de San Juan, Ciudad Real, 1977), … , is a civil engineer and passionate about history, especially that of the Byzantine Empire and the Middle Ages, to which he has dedicated lectures, presentations, articles, events and literary tours. He has participated in historical recreations and was the director of the city of Granada’s historical fiction days. El Veneciano is his fifth published novel.

Juan Ángel Juristo called it “a good book.”


This blogger prefers well-written history books to historical fiction.


SOURCE: Edhasa (publisher); review in “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, Nov. 24, 2018, p. 8 [printed edition]

Snippet: Santiago Lorenzo’s “The disgusting”

Los asquerosos_3D_alta

Santiago Lorenzo, Los asquerosos [The disgusting], 2018, 222 p.

publisher’s summary:

Manuel stabs a riot police who wanted to hit him. He flees. He hides in an abandoned village. He survives with Austral books, vegetables from the surroundings, some shopping from “Lidl” sent by his uncle. And he discovers that the less he has got, the less he needs. A static thriller. A version of Robinson Crusoe set in empty Spain, a redefinition of the concept of “austerity.” A story that presents us with the idea that the only healthy ones are those who know that this society is sick. Santiago Lorenzo (Basque Country, 1964) has written his most rabidly political, lyric and beautiful novel.

from (fellow writer) Carlos Zanón’s review:

The author shapes the narration –sometimes a rural McGyver, sometimes Chuck Norris, when not a Japanese soldier in the jungle ten years after the end of hostilities– not only as a humorous allegation of isolation, but as a ferocious critique of commercialism, of the political and social scam, of the invasion of idiocy –and of the barbarians, the newly arrived– and of the hunt and capture of everything that’s different.

Although at times it is too absorped narratively and linguistically and the title could be a lot better, the fact is that everything’s in its place, the story walks well explained, the bombs go off timely and the resolution is simple but outstanding. This type is known by Kurt Vonnegut and he provides him a house (in the countryside).


The critics seem to like it. This blogger likes the cover, and he might read the book if it appears in his local public library.

SOURCE: Blackie Books (publisher); review in “Babelia,” El País, Oct. 6, 2018, p. 7 [printed edition]

Snippet: Marta Orriols’ “Learning to talk to plants”

Aprendre a parlar amb les plantes

Marta Orriols, Aprendre a parlar amb les plantes [Learning to talk to plants], 2018, 256 p.

publisher’s summary:

Paula is 40 years old, she is a neonatologist and she is alive. When a revelation and a sudden loss lead her to plunge into herself, she begins a path that takes her to rage, fear, desire and personal reconstruction, and that will waken in her the survival instinct. Disoriented, she will have face even herself to reorganize an emotional geography that she feels extinct.

Aprendre a parlar amb les plantes is a delicate novel written from the point of view of a woman who has to come to terms with a world that she does not recognize any longer. Marta Orriols’ emotive, intense and reflexive narrative invites us to stick with the essential. An intimate book that weaves a close story capable of facing the most stinging pain with a stylistic maturity very seldomly found.

The author

Marta Orriols Balaguer (Sabadell, 1975), an art historian by training, lives and works in Barcelona and has got two kids. In the field of writing she studied movie scriptwriting at the Bande à Part movie school and creative writing at the Ateneu Barcelonès. She is the author of the blog No puc dormir [I can’t sleep], she works occasionally as a publishing reader, and she participated in the edition of the book Objeto de amor [Object of love], by Edna O’Brien (Lumen, 2018), being responsable for the selection of short stories that make up the book. She contributed to the online cultural magazine Núvol, and presently does so at Catorze, where she publishes literary and cultural chronicles. Her first book, Anatomia de les distàncies curtes [Anatomy of short distances] (Periscopi, 2016), was liked by the critics and the public alike. Her texts portray the complexity of human relationships with a delicate and harmonious prose of high emotional intensity.

from Julià Guillamon’s review:

As already happened with Anatomia de les distàncies curtes (2016), the book that drew the attention to Orriols’ talent, the base is a very convincing descripton of middle-class life, with outstanding, shining storytelling…

This blogger hasn’t read any of Orriols’ books yet and probably won’t do so in the nearer future.

Update January 2019:

The book won the cultural association Òmnium Cultural‘s prize for the best published work in Catalan in 2018. The prize is endowed with 20,000 € for the author and 5,000 € for the publisher.


SOURCE: Edicions del Periscopi (publisher); review in “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, Sept. 29, 2018, p. 7 [printed edition]

Snippet: Juste’s “Passage to the New World”

Tània Juste, Passatge al nou món [Passage to the new world], 2018, 366 p.

publisher’s summary:

Barcelona harbour, 1918. The Reina Victoria Eugenia cruise ship is about to sail to Buenos Aires. On board Berta Casals walks through the first-class lounges, discovering everything for the first time. She is very nervous as this is a one-way journey to South America. A rich Argentinian she hardly knows, Don Julio Mitchell, waits for her to become his wife and to make Patagonia her new home. A life on the other side of the ocean. During the long voyage she meets Abel again, a guy she got to know in her life before, and she becomes friends with the daughter of a great dancer, Irina Alexandrovna. The two young women share conversations, complicities, and an unconfessable secret that seals their destiny for ever. Nearly 70 years later, Berta will explain the true story of this unforgettable crossing to her granddaughter Valentina.

Two unknown women become the protagonists of this high seas story; two souls that not only share an Atlantic crossing but also an essential part of their destiny.

«The orchestra begins to play on the walking deck. It is a melody that is meant to be happy, but some of the passengers already start to weep while the handkerchiefs fly in the wind and the bodies are bent increasingly worried towards the loved ones that stay behind on the dock. Her father. Berta urgently looks for him again, and immediately she finds him. He is standing there quietly, in a grey suit with a hat that he raises with one hand. The distance does not prevent her from seeing the solemnity of his face, that does not correspond with his stature, that seems so small from high above. With the ship’s first movement, Berta looks lucid like a beam of light. Here they go.»

Tània Juste (Barcelona, 1972) is a Geography and History graduate of Universitat de Barcelona. After a few years dedicated to the world of image and communication in the textile sector, she researched a historical epoch that fascinated her: the Barcelona of the 1920s and 30s. The studies of that period led to her first novel, A flor de pell [Skin deep] (2009). In 2012 she published Els anys robats [The stolen years], and in 2014, L’hospital dels pobres [The hospital of the poor], both with the Columna label. In 2015 the won the Premi Nèstor Luján for a historical novel with Temps de família [Family time].

from Julià Guillamon’s review:

Well documented –written, as one notes, with eagerness to do it right, to spend a good time and to have the readers spend a good time: it’s a novel written with joy–…


This blogger probably won’t read the book as the central idea doesn’t seem original; as to cruise ship travelling, he recently enjoyed David Foster Wallace’s “A supposedly fun thing I will never do again”.

SOURCE: Columna (Grup62, Planeta; publisher); review in “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, Aug. 11, 2018, p. 6 [printed edition]

Snippet: Sackville’s “Painter to the king”

Amy Sackville, Painter to the King, 2018, 336 p.

The publisher, Granta, offers an excerpt.

There is a 56 minute video of the author on her book on youtube.

The Guardian offers a review by Sarah Perry.


“Amy Sackville’s Painter to the King (Granta) is an astonishing work of historical fiction, taking the reader deep into the world of Diego Velazquez, bringing the court of Philip IV to lustrous, luxurious life while illuminating the inner workings of an artistic genius. Sackville’s prose is controlled and clean-lined, her portrayal of Velazquez at once sympathetic and utterly convincing.”                  Alex Preston, The Guardian


The Wikipedia has got this article on Velázquez.

SOURCE: The Guardian, “Best books of 2018

Snippet: Happy Birthday, Karl Ove Knausgård!

He is 50 today and one of this blogger’s favorite contemporary authors. It’s never been so much fun before reading hundreds and hundreds of pages on the everyday life of an author who struggles with the same problems and doubts as a lot of his readers.

Thank you and keep on writing!

As to Iberian letters, there is the Spanish author Andrés Trapiello who regularly publishes his diaries [cf. this 2013 post], having arrived at volume 20 or more already, but I fear they are not as entertaining as Knausgård.

SOURCE: Wikipedia