Snippet: Daniel Vázquez’ “Lena”

Lena

Daniel Vázquez Sallés, Lena, 2018, 240 p.

publisher’s summary:

The first time that Martin saw Lena on the beach, he knew that this young girl would be the woman of his life, but for this he has got to pay an expensive toll: turn into a hit man.

And though it might have been chance that made his life come across that of the Enabler (“el Posibilista”), maybe it was not such coincidence that the assumed the human condition of killing on request. Because if something was written it was no his vocation, but his insane love for Lena, that fatal writer, loved –and disowned– by her peers.

Assuming Knopfler’s identity and the infinite risks coming along with being a killer were no impediment for Martin, because his final goal, Lena, was the gift. And after all, Lena is the love story between a hit man and a writer over time. Daniel Vázques Sallés doesn’t play with the readers, but accompanies them along a life journey full of turns and of winks to the city of Barcelona and to some its famous and anonymous characters that, in one way or another, at some moment or another, have come across the author’s life.

 

The writer Daniel Vázquez Sallés (Barcelona, 1966) is best known for being the son of Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (1939-2003). There is more information on him, Lena and his previous books on the pages of the Balcells literary agency.

SOURCE: Alrevés (publisher)

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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); nuvol.com

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: Gothic Barcelona again

Ferran Sáez Mateu, La nit contra tu: una novel·la gòtica de la Barcelona dels vuitanta [The night against you: a gothic novel of 1980s Barcelona], 2016, 394 p.

publisher’s summary:

In September 1982, three old lawyers receive the order of arbitrating an important inheritance that implies the restitution of a monstrous, difficult to understand debt. The recipient of the inheritance, a businessman who leads a quiet life in a provincial village in Catalonia, moves temporarily to Barcelona to deal with the paperwork. The pre-Olympian city is a grey and decadent world where the closing of the last neighborhood grocery stores coincides with the lost look of the first junkies. In this twilight atmosphere start to happen things that a first only seem strange or unusual but that later show their unequivocally supernatural nature.

from Julià Guillamon’s review:

In La nit contra tu by FSM there is a fantastic description of how Barcelona was at the beginning of the 1980s: a city that ceased to exist as the decade progressed and the Olympic Games [summer 1992] got closer. (…)

He accompanies you through a Barcelona that has lost its soul, and in this dissatisfied city he develops a story with all the ingredients of the classic horror stories: a mansion, a guy who seems to be the devil, changes of conscience, appearances, splits. (…)

La nit contra tu talks about the loss of volition, of the disconnection of conscience, and from this point of view it can be read as an allegoric novel of the Barcelona of the last thirty or forty years. (…)

An original, stimulating and convincing reading.

 

SOURCE: Proa (Planeta; publisher); review in “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, Nov. 26, 2016, p. 7 [printed edition]

Snippet: Rafael Tasis (1906-1966), writer

from the Wikipedia (Catalan):

Rafael Tasis i Marca (Barcelona, March 9, 1906 – Paris, December 4, 1966) was a Catalan writer and politician, librarian and owner of a family printing shop.

In 1922 he began his [magazine] contributions to La Mainada, directed by Avel·lí Artís i Balaguer, and to l’Estevet, by Manuel Carrasco i Formiguera, and later on in La Publicitat, Mirador, Revista de Catalunya, Serra d’Or, and many others.

During the 1930s he was the secretary general of the youth organization of [the political party] Acció Catalana Republicana, and from 1937 to 1938 he was appointed director general of the correctional services [prisons] of the Generalitat de Catalunya [Catalan regional government]. In 1939 he went to exile in Paris, but he returned in 1948. Even though he still worked as a correspondent for the exiles, contributing to magazines published outside of Spain, such as La Nostra Revista, Pont Blau, Quaderns de l’Exili, Vida Nova, Catalunya, and others, with the pseudonym of Pere Bernat or Blanquerna.

At the same time he boosted new cultural ideas and, managing the book and printing shop founded by his father, he published translations of French and English novels and anthologies.

The Catalan writers’ association has got this interesting page on Tasis’ life and work in English.

Two unpublished works by Tasis were brought out in 2015.

The publisher’s summary for Muntaner, 4 [street address in Barcelona], 232 p.:

Muntaner, 4 offers a fresco of Barcelona life on the eve of the outbreak of the [Spanish civil] war and the 1936 revolution and of the months afterwards. A choral novel in which the whole action takes place in the house of no. 4, Muntaner street of Barcelona, and which interweaves into it the experiences of those who live there together. Their stories capture the beats of a of a boiling metropolis and build up to a microcosm of the middle classes of those hopeful and convulsed years.

Polyhedral and modern in its use of a narrative technique of multiple, intertwined plots, Muntaner, 4 portrays rightfully the changes that in the middle of the war came about in public life and in the daily morals, open to the European winds. In the round of intertwined stories, in which the sexual relations are quite important, Tasis shows himself attentive to a precise rendering of the urban geography of Barcelona and, through the varied mosaic of characters, of the most relevant historic events.

Unpublished until now, surrounded by an aureole of legend, Ensiola recuperates one of the first novels of Catalan letters –that Tasis left unfinished– about the years of the Second Republic and the war of 1936-1939.

Pere Guixà, literary critic:

The literary value of this novel, that was written nearly at the same time as the events described by it, is not less than its historical value.

SOURCE: Wikipedia; Ensiola (publisher); review in “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, Nov. 26, 2016

Snippet: Carlos Zanón’s “Taxi”

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.

Snippet: Sánchez Pardos’ “Lady of the Well”

Daniel Sánchez Pardos, La Dama del Pozo [The Lady of the Well], 2017, 448 p.

Another novel set in 19th century Barcelona, and Planeta, the publisher, offers a summary in English on its foreign rights pages.

“… a very good piece of crime fiction that glows, among other reasons, due to its great protagonist.”

Lilian Neumann in her review in “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, July 22, 2017, pp. 6-7.