Snippet: Madrid Book Fair 2017

2017  Ena Cardenal de la Nuez

The 76th edition of the Madrid Book Fair takes places in the Retiro park from May 26 to June 11. The guest country is Portugal, geographically very close but quite unknown to the average Spaniard… In 367 huts a total of 488 exhibitors present themselves. There are expected more than 2 M visitors. This year’s slogan: “Madrid, city of reading”, supported by statistics that say that Madrid is the region of Spain where people read most. Among the more than 5,000 activities is for the first time a summit of book fair directors with those of the most important ones in Latin America: Buenos Aires, Guadalajara, Bogotá and Lima.

SOURCE: Fernando García, La Vanguardia, May 27, 2017, p. 40 [printed edition]; Madrid Book Fair

Snippet: Marta Sanz’ “We were young women”

Marta Sanz, Éramos mujeres jóvenes. Una educación sentimental de la transición española [We were young women. A love education of the Spanish transition.], 2017, 216 p.

publisher’s summary:

Between essay, personal memory and report, Marta Sanz alternates the evocation of her experience with that of a group of female friends who share their sexual or affective experiences, their desires, their discoveries or their deceptions from adolescence to mature age. Lucid, committed and good humoured, the set traces a revealing generational self-portrait around questions that hardly ever leak out of intimate conversations.

La Vanguardia‘s critic J. A. Masoliver Ródenas reviewed it very favorably.

There are two older posts on Marta Sanz from 2017 and 2015.

SOURCE: Fundación José Manuel Lara (Planeta; publisher); “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, May 6, 2017, pp. 4-5 [printed edition].

Snippet: Orejudo’s “The Famous Five and I”

Antonio Orejudo, Los cinco y yo [The Famous Five and I], 2017, 256 p.

publisher’s summary:

Toni feels that he is a writer who doesn’t write and a professor who doesn’t teach. He grew up reading the adventures of The Famous Five written by Enid Blyton,  books that gave to him that which the Spain of the years before and immediately after Franco’s death was unable to offer to him: entertainment without vigilance, freedom of movement and ginger ale, i.e. the limitless world that the vital intensity of his transition to adolescence needed. In the course of this novel, those personalities that Toni envied so much as a child seem to transform themselves into beings of flesh and bone like himself, who suffers the process in reverse and ends up being what he always wanted to be, one more of them. Los Cinco y yo is a ravishingly original novel that sometimes masks itself as childhood memories, and at others as a disquieting fiction of denunciation, to pass from anecdote to satire and from there to a personal theory of narration.  Antonio Orejudo pays tribute to and at the same time settles accounts with his generation, the one born during the demographic boom of the 1960s, that had nothing to do with the transition from dictatorship to democracy.

Antonio Orejudo (Madrid, 1963) has a PhD in Spanish philology and has been a professor of Spanish literature at American and Spanish universities.

This blogger probably read all of Enid Blyton‘s 21 books of the series in his 1970s childhood but doesn’t remember any of it…

SOURCE: Tusquets (Planeta, publisher)

Snippet: Casajuana on Hugh Thomas (1931-2017)

On May 7, 2017, the historian Hugh Thomas, author of one of the most influential books on the Spanish Civil War, died at age 85.

There have appeared obituaries in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Independent, and El País.

In an article entitled “The ‘prince of hispanists'”, Carles Casajuana writes about his personal experiences with the British historian when he was the Spanish ambassador to the UK. Among other things, he says that the author of The Spanish Civil War (1961; revised ed. 2001), maintained that the Catalan Arnau de Vilanova (Wikipedia) in the 13th century invented the process of alcohol destillation and the production of liquor, which he called acqua vitae. Though the Chinese also claimed the invention, Thomas thought that Arnau at least was the first one in Europe. As to the importance of British historians in the historiography of Spain, Thomas thought the fault lay with the Franco regime and censorship that didn’t permit Spanish historians before 1975 to look without prejudice onto their own recent history; his colleague Paul Preston thinks that there is a second reason, i.e. the way history is taught at British universities, centered on thinking, processing a lot of different information and drawing conclusions, rather than learning by heart huge amounts of historic data. On a more personal note, Casajuana expresses his gratitude to Thomas and his wife for invinting him on different ocasions to dinner parties, which enabled him to get to know many different people and to learn a lot about the British mentality and culture.

You can read more on Carles Casajuana (Sant Cugat del Vallès, 1954) on the pages of the Catalan Writers’ Association. This blogger enjoys his weekly op-ed article in La Vanguardia.

SOURCE: Carles Casajuana, “El ‘príncep dels hispanistes’,” La Vanguardia, May 13, 2017, p. 28 [printed edition]

Snippet: Another “Fátima” miracle?

Dear readers, please forgive this blogger’s frivolous thoughts, but he finds it a big coincidence that a Portuguese singer won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in history on the same day that Pope Francis visited the Fátima pilgrimage site in Portugal to canonize two of the child shepherds who maintained that the Holy Virgin appeared to them in May 1917…

You can read more on the Pope’s visit in an article by The Guardian and in the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano; more on “Our Lady of Fátima” in the Wikipedia.

As to the Eurovision Song Contest a few hours later, The Guardian offers an article and a video with the winning singer, Salvador Sobral (Lisbon, 1989; Wikipedia).

Your blogger is neither Roman Catholic nor a keen follower of the Eurovision SC. He admires the social work done by the Roman Catholic Church through “Caritas” in Portugal and Spain, two countries where the welfare state is underdeveloped in comparison to countries further to the north, such as Germany…

Snippet: National reading programs (Portugal, Spain)

logo extendido del PFL

Thinking education and culture as axis of government implicates the assumption of reading as a political priority, taking this competence as basic for the plural access to knowledge and cultural enrichment – indispensable for the exercise of an active citizenship and the economic and social development of the country. This scope, the extended domain of the reading competence and seen as a fundamental condition for the construction and consolidation of a free society, with social cohesion, democratic access to information, to knowledge, and cultural creation and enjoyment. …

This is a new edition of the Portuguese national reading program already in place between 2006 and 2016. After evaluating the experience so far, the government saw the need to keep up the struggle.

To accomplish this goal, this new stage of the PNL [national reading plan] for 2017-2027 (PNL 2027) ought to support and foster programs especially directed to favour social integration through reading  in different forms; the formation of different segments of the population – children, juveniles and adults; the inclusion of persons with special needs; the articulated development of a scientific, literary and artistic culture; and access to knowledge and culture through the use of information and communication technologies. In the ambit of its attributions, and in fulfillment of the government program, the local authorities of culture, science, technology and superior teaching and education are asked to develop an integrated policy for the promotion of reading, writing and multiple literacies, namely cultural, scientific and digital. To this end, we directly tender [?] the Programa de Promoção da Leitura [Reading promotion program], the Rede de Centros de Ciência Viva [Live science centers network], the Rede Nacional de Bibliotecas Públicas [National public libraries network], the Rede de Bibliotecas Escolares [School libraries network] and the libraries of the higher education institutions. …

The Portuguese government’s website includes a number of extended reading lists, e.g. one with Portuguese and international classics, and one with English-language books for secondary-school students and adult readers.

The Spanish government also has got a reading fostering program in place for 2017-2020, but it doesn’t sound as ambitious as the Portuguese one; although there is a national ministry of education, culture and sports, “culture” is a competence of the autonomous regions that often prefer to “do their own thing” without consulting with Madrid or the other regions.

While any effort to foster reading should be welcomed, neither the Portuguese nor the Spanish government seem to put “real” money behind the professed effort; at least the official statements don’t mention any figures…

Update: According to El Mundo, the Spanish one is endowed with 7.2M EUR for 2017 (a total of 28.3M EUR until 2020); the previous one of 2006 (!) was endowed with 38M EUR – public libaries hope to get some of this money to renew their stocks as their budgets have been “frozen” since 2012.

SOURCE: Government of Portugal [consulted April 26, 2017]; Government of Spain (illustration)

Snippet: “The Bassats’ return” (nonfiction)

El retorn dels Bassat - Vicenç Villatoro Lamolla

Vicenç Villatoro, El retorn dels Bassat [The Bassats’ return], 2016, 592 p.

Publisher’s summary:

In the life of Lluís Bassat [Barcelona, 1941], one of the most prestigious publicists in the world, there come together two errant families and a lot of journeys over the centuries. The Bassats, sephardites, after being forced to leave Spain in the 14th century [sic; this blogger thinks it’s probably the 15th – 1492], during the 19th and 20th centuries they roam through Bulgaria, Turkey, Austria, Germany and France, before returning to Spain. The Cohens, Romaniote Jews established on the Greek island of Corfu, are also forced during the 19th and 20th centuries to emigrate to Italy and France, before one of their members arrives in Barcelona in 1905.

Vicenç Villatoro, together with Lluís Bassat, investigates this extraordinary tour of return to Sefarad, and he takes us to a world that has already disappeared, woven over all the ends of the Mediterranean. Sewing narration, testimony and literary reflexion, El retorn dels Bassat is also a thread that traces the splendour and tragedy of the Jews from the old continent. And, ultimately, the history of Europe itself.

Vicenç Villatoro (Terrassa, 1957) is a writer and journalist also very active in (culture) politics.

Somewhat related, La Vanguardia commemorated the 75th anniversary of the infamous Wannsee conference (“the final solution”) with an article on German Jews who fled Nazi Germany (and later the annexed/occupied territories) and came to Barcelona, around 10.000 in total, a lot of them in transit to a safe third country, especially after the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s cooperation with Hitler. Most of the refugees were poor, and many at first slept on chairs on the Rambla (the so called “Hotel Catalonia”). But some became very successful in what they did and are presented in the article: Kurt Kauf, a JD who made a fortune as a salesman of Adler sewing machines; David Oliver, a movie producer who later went on to Hollywood; Bernard Hilda, a music who led an orquestra that played at “La Parrilla” del hotel Ritz and at “La Rosaleda” – at the same time he worked as a spy for the Allied forces; Artur Kaps, who came with his theatre company “Los Vieneses”; in 1959 Kaps began to work for the newly created Spanish state TV, and together with his compatriots Franz Joham and Herta Frankel he developed entertainment shows.

SOURCE: La Magrana (RBA, publisher); Santiago Tarín, La Vanguardia, Jan. 21, 2017, “Viure”, p. 6 [printed edition]