Snippet: Cabré on Roig i Capmany (essay)

[cover image available at the SOURCE]

Maria Àngels Cabré Castells, Miralls creuats: Roig/Capmany [Crossed mirrors: R/C], 2017, 278 p.

33rd Josep Vallverdú Essay Prize 2016

publisher’s summary:

If there are two women who stand out as feminist writers in the Catalan literature of the second half of the 20th century, these are Maria Aurèlia Capmany and Montserrat Roig, master and disciple, friends, and two of the clearest voices of these years of radical political and social transformations. The firs was one lucky enough to enjoy the Second Republic, but the price for it was suffering the [Spanish Civil] war; the second one was born in the postwar period and the Transition [from the Franco regime to democracy] was the scene of her literary effervescence. Both of them died from cancer in the same year, 1991. This walk through their lives and their works is to discover the territories common to them, as there are the city of Barcelona, theater, journalism, Catalanism, and obviously feminism, that has turned them into two indispensable links of our female genealogy.

M. Àngels Cabré: “With this essay I wanted to honor two women who have educated me as a writer, M. A. Capmany and M. Roig, and of whom this year [2016] we commemorate the 25 anniversary of their death.”

M. Àngels Cabré (Barcelona 1968) is a writer and literary critic. She published a biography of the poet Gabriel Ferrater, the novel El silencio [Silence] and the poetry collections Gran amor [Great love] and Si se calla el cantor [If the singer gets silent], and the essays Leer y escribir en femenino [Reading and writing as a woman], A contracorriente. Escritoras a la intemperie del siglo XX [Agains the current. Women writers in the 20th century outdoors], Wonderwomen. 35 retratos de mujeres fascinantes [Wonderwomen. 35 portraits of fascinating women] and María Luz Morales, pionera del periodismo [MLM, pioneer in journalism] (2017). She directs the Observatori Cultural de Gènere [Cultural gender observatory], dedicated to the fostering of gender equality in culture, and she contributes regulary to different media, among them the newspapers Ara and La Vanguardia.

from Marta Hormaechea’s review:

These are two parallel biographies… the author recreates the lives of teacher and student without a strict chronology, switching from paragraph to paragraph in a game of mirrors. […] The two “competent, protesting, without mincing words and above all free, wrote from progressive thought.” […] After reading Miralls creuats, we get an approximate idea of how through a woman’s eyes the social, political and cultural scene of 20th century Catalonia was seen and thought. [Both died in 1991.] […] … “the male and female rebells of a recent past are very necessary as lighthouses.” But if there is too much fog, we need somebody –coincidentally it has been a woman– to dissipate it and who reminds us that their light continues here, even though their books are not published as much as we would like and their texts are not part of the high-school curriculum.

There is a 2016 post on Cabré’s book of women who “swam against the current”.

SOURCE: Pagès Editors (publisher); “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, Sept. 9, 2017, p. 15 [printed edition]


Snippet: Nicolau d’Olwer’s Abelard biography

Lluís Nicolau d’Olwer, Pere Abelard: un humanista del segle XII [Peter Abelard: a 12th century humanist] (ca. 1935), 2017, 473 p.

Publisher’s summary:

The unpublished masterwork by Lluís Nicolau d’Olwer: a studiously structured and carefully written essay.

As a medievalist, Nicolau d’Olwer felt attracted to the enigmatic figure of Peter Abelard: a medieval humanist, a rigorous intellectual, a passionate lover, an extemporaneous monk.  His unpublished essay on Abelard is without a doubt his opus postumum, a laborious work, written during 20 years. It has to be considered a penetrating intellectual biography, based on an insightful literary critique, historically well founded. Solidly interpreting the historic and doctrinal texts on which it is based, it highlights all that could reveal personal attitudes and moods. Thus, it describes with a captivating style the most important traits of Peter Abelard’s personality.

The table of contents can be seen here.

A biographical sketch on Lluís Nicolau d’Olwer in English can be found in the Wikipedia.

The Wikipedia offers this comprehensive article on Peter Abelard.

SOURCE: Obrador Edendum (publisher)

Snippet: Jordi Amat’s “Life of Josep Benet”

Jordi Amat, Com una pàtria. Vida de Josep Benet [Like a homeland. Life of Josep Benet], 2017, 584 p.

Publisher’s summary:

The life of Josep Benet (1920-2008) is the story of a country that fought to reconstruct its identity after defeat in the Spanish Civil War. If there ever was an activist who had the strength and tenacity to wander the whole parable of democratic antifranquisme  [resistance to the Franco regime], it was him. In his relations with the main scholars of his times -from Josep Pla to Joan Sales, or from Joan Fuster to Josep Maria de Sagarra- and working together with the new leaders of postwar [Catalan] nationalism -from Felix Millet to Jordi Pujol, from Jaume Vicens Vives to Abbot Escarré-, this politician and intellectual was an engine of civil society and one of its most outstanding protagonists during the second half of the 20th century.

Be it in the resistance or the Assamblea de Catalunya [Catalan assembly in opposition to Franco, 1971-1977], defending opposition figures before court-martials, or organizing the Festes de l’Entronització de Montserrat [church celebration developed into an act of resistance, 1947], Josep Benet became a key player of leftist catalanism during the Transition [to democracy], and he faced up with forcefulness to Josep Tarradellas.

This biography, based on hundreds of unpublished documents, narrates the milestones and vicissitudes of his struggle, and it discovers the faces of a complex personality that hid many secrets and was recognized as a transversal symbol.


SOURCE: Grup 62 (publisher)

Snippet: A Civil War love story

Sonsoles Ónega, Después del amor [After love], 2017, 592 p.

Fernando Lara novel prize 2017

Publisher’s summary:

An unforgettable story of secret love that crossed a war and overcame all social barriers.

Carme travelled by train from Barcelona when an exchange of glances changed her life forever. It was 1933 and Frederic Escofet and Carmen Trilla –he an army captain; her a wife trapped in an unhappy marriage– wove a love story that neither gossip, nor the Spanish Civil War, nor exile were able to destroy, but that left in Carmen’s three children the trace of uprooting.

Based on real facts, Sonsoles Ónega puts into the format of a novel the story of a brave woman who reconstructed her identity in a Spain where women were not allowed to love and stop loving. An unforgettable story of secret love whose protagonists had to face all kinds of social conventionalisms.


Xavi Ayén cites the author in an article on the book. “I wanted to concentrate on her, Carmen Trilla, known for her elegance and beauty as the ‘Greta Garbo of Barcelona’ in the 1930s,” and who reveals herself as a Madame Bovary with the courage to finally leave her husband and be at the side of the man whom she really loved.” Ayén writes that Escofet’s biograph left out Trilla because his subject wanted to spare his first wife the disgrace. The same biographer, Xavier Febrés, gave Ónega access to his material in which Escofet himself explained the love story. Ayén says that many readers will think that Ónega exaggerates but the author maintains that she lessened the intensity. “Feelings are the prime material of the novel.” The bad guy of the story is Trilla’s husband. For background information on the epoch, Barcelona’s social life, etc. Ónega used La Vanguardia‘s newspaper archive. According to Ayén, the novel has got “all the elements of a bestseller and presents different registers, i.e. that of the romantic, adventure, costumbrista or historic novel.”

Sonsoles Ónega (Madrid, 1977) is a parliament reporter for Telecinco, a private TV station that belongs to the Berlusconi Mediaset group. This is her fifth published novel.

This blogger is cautious with novels that are publicized as “unforgettable” and possible bestsellers; and he doesn’t like Telecinco

SOURCE: Planeta (publisher), Xavi Ayén in La Vanguardia, June 17, 2017, p. 43 [printed edition]

Snippet: Carmen Posada’s “Cayetana’s daughter”

Carmen Posadas, La hija de Cayetana [The duchess’s daughter], 2016, 520 p.

Publisher’s summary:

An amazing and forgotten episode protagonized by one of the most famous women in our History: Cayetana de Alba, the unforgettable muse of Goya.

Eccentric, capricious and free, for more than two hundred years her power of seduction has endured unalterable. But very few know that the duchess adopted a black girl, María Luz, whom she loved and educated as her own daughter and to whom she bequeathed part of her fortune.

Carmen Posadas narrates with a master’s hand the fate of the two mothers: the adoptive one with her loves and dramas at Carlos IV’s court, an authentic nest of intrigue, and that of the biological one, Trinidad, who, as a slave in Spain, fights to find the baby that was taken from her shortly after giving birth.

Posadas presents interesting places (Cuba, Madrid, Sevilla, Cádiz, Madeira and the Coto de Doñana (reserve) and a lot of palace politics, art, and social history: how people lived at the end of the 18th and in the early 19th century, the French Revolution seen from afar, violence as part of daily life, especially for poor women, and the impotence of rich and poor alike in front of epidemics and death. At the end of the book, the author explains that she stuck to the facts wherever possible, i.e. mainly with reference to the life of the duchess and the painter Goya. This blogger didn’t know that there lived slaves in the Iberian peninsula in the 18th century – mostly as luxury objects to show off with, though this didn’t improve the way they were treated/abused. He enjoyed the book, except for the excessive descriptions of dresses and hairstyles…

More information on the Uruguayan-Spanish author Carmen Posadas (Montevideo, 1953) who has lived most of her life in Spain can be found at the Wikipedia, though the bibliography is incomplete in the English article. Also on the house of Alba. offers her novels Child’s Play, The Last Resort, and Little Indiscretions in English.

SOURCE: Planeta (publisher)

Snippet: Varela’s “Eugenio d’Ors” (biography)

Eugenio d'ors 1881-1954 (p. Gaziel 2016) - Javier Varela Tortajada

Javier Varela, Eugenio D’Ors, 1881-1954, 2017, 576 p.

Gaziel biography and memoirs prize 2016 [video of the award ceremony (Spanish)]

publisher’s summary:

During the course of his life, Eugenio d’Ors, aka Xenius, was a Catalan nationalist, trade unionist, monarchist, and finally a falangista [Spanish fascist; cf. Wikipedia]. He also was an extraordinary intellectual, art critic, patient writer of an extensive “Glossary” in Catalan and in Spanish, and definitely one of the most interesting authors of Spain during the first half of the 20th century.

Such a relevant, complex figure, full of contrasts, needed a biography that examined in unitary form all of his facets. In an exhaustive and never complacent manner, Eugenio d’Ors (1881-1953) brings to light the brilliant and original writer, the formidable creator of aphorisms, the politically changing man, to claim his real importance in the Catalan, Spanish and European context of the past century.

excerpts from a review by Adolfo Sotelo Vázquez:

A splendid intellectual biography

Javier Varela (Madrid, 1952) is a distinguished scholar of Spanish political thought…

This dense… biography is written like an erudite story with an ambition to style. A style characterized by fluency and rhythm… the biography is attractive, elegant and at the same time solid… It is an intellectual biography because it narrates the life of the writer but also the moral, aesthetic and political map that surrounds him in Catalonia, Spain, and Europe.

… Varela sintethizes in a masterful way the influence of Maurras in Catalonia… and he points out the creative translation of Maurras’ set of ideas undertaken by d’Ors in Catalonia. The author studies rigorously the écritures du jour [daily columns] that d’Ors produced during more than 15 years for the Barcelona press. … The works of the years 1906 and 1907 “throb” with the ethical and aesthetic principles of the Noucentisme [movement], … the qualities of willingness, proportion and balance.

During the second decade of the 20th century d’Ors practised a kind of “intellectual dictatorship” in Barcelona: apart from his newspaper contributions, he was secretary of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans [Institute of Catalan Studies], a teacher at the Escola de Bibliotecàries [female librarians’ school], director of the Quaderns d’Estudi [study notes; probably a magazine], director of the Seminari de Filosofia i Psicologia [Philology and Psychology Seminary], …

Hi rich and polemic personality, his extraordinary culture and his enormous capacity for daily work, materialized in an ocean of journalistic contributions (“a highly intelligent commentator of the evanescent present,” in a precise phrase by Varela). And also his eagerness to demonstrate his virtues as a writer in Catalan and in Spanish. D’Ors lived with his dandyism, his vanity, his cinicism, with his intellectual arrogance. These were the aspects of his masks.

This blogger read some of d’Ors’ early 20th century articles and was impressed by his culture and his beautiful style in Catalan, in quality very similar to the prose by Josep Pla.

SOURCE: RBA (publisher); review in “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, May 27, 2017, pp. 4-5 [printed edition]

Snippet: Montesinos on Thoreau

Toni Montesinos, El triunfo de los principios: cómo vivir con Thoreau [The triumph of principles: how to live with Thoreau], 2017, 552 p.

publisher’s summary:

Henry David Thoreau is often associated with civil disobedience, in a context of the fight against slavery and the war in a United States that was still in formation, and with the attraction that he felt for the life of the Native Americans. But the truth is that this observer of nature and of human behavior touched in his day all that which is important for us today. In Walden, but also in his other books, diaries and letters, he spoke from an autobiographic perspective on friendship, love, economics, education, politics, religion, social hypocrisy… Always settling on firm ideas and practicing austerity, trusting in his senses and intution, with the willingness to make his present something transcendental.

El triunfo de los principios is a biography of Thoreau and at the same time a tour through his reflections and experiences, a questioning of our actual life from that lived in the middle of the 19th century in a small village in Massachusetts, Concord, where also resided Emerson, Hawthorne and L.M. Alcott. The intelligence and beauty of his writings, in which stand out the ironic or convincing tone on his fellow citizens, his faith in self-confidence, in goodness as the best investment, in the elimination of self-imposed necessities, will suggest to us to understand, to say it with his words, the essence of life, and make of carpe diem, sincerity and simplicity a lighthouse of behavior and daily thinking.

Toni Montesinos (Barcelona, 1972) is a writer and literary critic.

The Wikipedia has got this article on Henry David Thoreau whose 200th birthday is on July 12, 2017.

SOURCE: Ariel (Planeta, publisher)