Snippet: Capdevila’s “Girl who wanted to draw”

La nena que volia dibuixar

Roser Capdevila, La nena que volia dibuixar [The girl who wanted to draw], 2018, 120 p.

publisher’s summary:

A grey postwar infancy, according to Roser Capdevila

La nena que volia dibuixar” is a splendid portrait of daily life during the first years of the Franco regime: from the manias, hobbies and routines of every family member, the girls’ education, over the greyness of the school, ever-present religion and the boring social relations, to the moments of freedom given by play, special holidays or excursions with friends. Roser Capdevila, with her extraordinary drawings and texts, makes of her personal memories universal memories. They bring the readers with a tender and detail-oriented view, not without criticism, to a bare and narrow society that slowly modernizes with the arrival of new household appliances and new habits. Born when the Spanish Civil War was about to end, Roser Capdevila has kept the significant details fresh in her memory, the precise nuance, the revealing anecdotes that explain how the country and the people were like.

Roser Capdevila (Barcelona, Jan. 23, 1939). From 1980 onwards she has devoted herself to writing and illustrating stories for different European publishing houses; until completing a bibliography with more than 300 titles, which made her the most translated Catalan author. She is the creator of the animation series Les Tres Bessones, Sans Barbe, Les Belles Histoires, La Bruixa Avorrida, Les Tres Bessones Bebés, and La gallina Koki.

A lot of Catalan (and Spanish) preschoolers during the past 20 years have enjoyed Capdevila’s Tres bessones [“three twins” = triplets] in the form of short videos, often narrating classic fairy tales in a new version.

SOURCE: Angle Ed. (publisher)


Snippet: Fuster’s Baroja family history

Cubierta de la obra Aire de familia

Francisco Fuster, Aire de familia. Historia íntima de los Baroja [Family air: intimate history of the Barojas], 2018, 200 p.

publisher’s summary:

Though it hardly ever happens, sometimes there’s the happy circumstance that in the seat of one family two – or more – siblings coincide in a successful cultivation of the arts or letters. Even less frequent is that this creative vein affects different generations of one and the same lineage, leading to what we call a “saga of artists.” This book wants to recreate the memory of one of these lineages, maybe the best known one in contemporary Spain, paying attention to that intimate and family private sphere, in which feelings and emotions emerge or are repressed. Definitely an invitation to the readers to get to know better the passionate history of this clan; and they are meant to do so through the words of its members, as nobody better but them have been able to describe this “family air” – never better said – so unique and special that for more than one hundred years has been breathed in the seat of this rarity of our recent past that have been – and are – the Barojas.

from Jordi Amat’s review:

[Fuster’s] approach to the literature… has been that of a historian of culture. […] And he comments [the books and articles] in an informative manner: he is an academic determined in the pursuit of the socialization of knowledge; a fact witnessed by the different text editions that he has edited. […]

The distillate of this fascination is the choral portrait just published. It seems as if the author had lived with the protagonists at the houses in Madrid and in Vera, attentive to their characters and taking note on the relationships the ones maintained with the others.

The Wikipedia offers this article on Pío Baroja, of whom quite a few works are available in English and who was admired by John Dos Passos and Ernest Hemingway.


SOURCE: Catedra (publisher); review in “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, May 19, 2018, pp. 20-21 [printed edition]

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: Xavier Aliaga’s “Uncle Antoine”

Les quatre vides de l'oncle Antoine

Xavier Aliaga, Les quatre vides de l’oncle Antoine [The four lives of Uncle Antoine], 2017, 224 p.

27th City of Tarragona Pin i Soler novel prize

publisher’s summary:

Antonio Aliaga has to flee from Spain during the first years after the Spanish Civil War. His clandestine activities against the Franco regime force him to leave his wife and two daughters at Carcaixent [autonomous region of Valencia] and enlist with the Foreign Legion, immersed in the Indochina war. In the physical distance and from the viewpoint of his family, Antonio becomes a mysterious, sneaky and mythical character.

Xavier Aliaga, the author and narrator, didn’t get to know his uncle Antonio, but immersed in the role of the chronicler he delves into the family history to bring the truth to light, to the point where he can, to unveil misery and greatness, and to onstruct a splendid novel on a life both ordinary and exceptional.

«From an exercise in autofiction he explores a stage of the Franco regime that becomes universal.» — Prize jury.

«A work full of nuances on the recuperation of the forgotten, written with a narrative genius that feeds essentially from curiosity.» —Núvol.

Xavier Aliaga (1970) was born in Madrid and raised in Xàtiva [Valencia region]. For a decade he work in political communication. He has worked as a columnist, radio and TV commentator and as scriptwriter. Since 2007 he works fulltime creatively as a writer, culture journalist, and literary and music critic. He is the culture editor at El Temps magazine. He has published, among other works, Els neons de Sodoma [Sodoma’s neons] (Andròmina prize), Vides desafinades [Out of tune lives] (Joanot Martorell and Crítica liteary prizes), and El meu nom no és Irina [My name is not Irina] (Crítica prize).


SOURCE: Angle (publisher)

Snippet: Primavera prize to Javier Moro

The Premio Primavera de Novela [Spring novel prize; Wikipedia (Spanish)] is important because of the prize money involved: 100,000 EUR. This year’s winner is the bestselling author Javier Moro (Madrid, 1955; Wikipedia) for Mi Pecado [My sin]. The book deals with the life of Conchita Montenegro, the first Spanish Hollywood star.

The curious thing is that a book on the same actress was recently published by Carmen Ro (cf. this January 2018 post). Naturally, Moro denies any plagiarism.

There is a 2015 post on another book by Javier Moro.

SOURCE: EFE newsagency, Feb. 23, 2018

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)