Snippet: Barcino prize 2017 to Pérez-Reverte

(c) El Punt Avui newspaper, Nov. 7, 2017

On November 6, 2017, the first day of the “Barcelona Novel·la Històrica” [BCN historical novel] literature festival, organized by the Barcelona Institute of Culture, Arturo Pérez-Reverte was awarded this year’s Barcino prize in recognition for his many contributions to the genre of historical fiction.

The jury pointed out that Pérez-Reverte has “combined during many years major and minor histories, accurately documented, a pessimist and Galdosian view of the past that already in its own right has been labeled as Revertian, and an obsession for the language, that he has always adapted” whenever the context required it. The jury also said that he fulfilled the premises that “a historical novel has got to entertain, but also help us to understand an epoch. That is the mission of the writer who flees the traps, avoids common places and who constructs narrative artefacts with which he achieves that the past sheds light onto the present.”

Pérez-Reverte’s first historical novel was El húsar [The hussar] in 1986. And then came a lot more…

Available in English are (at least):

The Flanders Panel

The Seville Communion

Captain Alatriste

The Club Dumas

Purity of Blood

The Siege

He also wrote two non-fiction novels, narrative chronicles of two moments of historic relevance: Cabo Trafalgar and Un día de cólera [A day of anger], on May 2, 1808 in Madrid.

This blogger really liked The Seville Communion, though he doesn’t like Pérez-Reverte as a person who seems quite arrogant.

Pérez-Reverte is quite prolific, so there are older posts on Falcó (2016), Guerreros Urbanos (2016), Hombres buenos (2015), Perros e hijos de perras (2014), El francotirador paciente (2013), and El tango de la guardia vieja (2012).

SOURCE: “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, Nov. 4, 2017, p. 5 [printed edition]; El Punt Avui (photo); amazon.com (English titles)

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Snippet: “The Heretic” by Miguel Delibes

Image of The Heretic by Miguel Delibes

Miguel Delibes, El hereje [The Heretic], 1998 [2006, translation; summary]

A review by Samantha Schnee can be found here; the Wikipedia has got an article on Miguel Delibes.

It’s one of the favorite Spanish novels (and writers) ever of this blogger, and the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is a good day to remember the book.

Other protestants in fiction can be found in this article by The Guardian.

Snippet: Almudena Grandes’ “Dr. García’s patients”

Almudena Grandes, Los pacientes del doctor García [Dr. García’s patients], 2017, 768 p.

Publisher’s summary:

After Franco’s victory the physician Guillermo García Medina still lives in Madrid with a false identity. The documentation that saved him from being executed was a present by his best friend, Manuel Arroyo Benítez, a Republican diplomat whose life he saved in 1937. Guillermo thinks that he will never see him again, but in September 1946 Manuel returns from exile with a secret and dangerous mission. He plans to infiltrate a clandestine organization, the escape network of war criminals and fugitives of the Third Reich, directed from the Argüelles neighborhood by a German and Spanish woman, Nazi and falangista [Wikipedia], called Clara Stauffer. While doctor García lets himself being recruited by Manuel, the name of another Spaniard crosses the two friends’ destiny. Adrián Gallardo Ortega, who had his moment of glory as a professional  boxer before joining the División Azul [“blue division”, Wikipedia] to continue fighting as an SS volunteer and participate in the last defense of Berlin, and who lives rather badly in Germany, ignoring that someone wants to supplant his identity to escape to the Argentina of Perón.

A thriller and a spy novel, Los pacientes del doctor García is maybe Almudena Grandes’ most international and fastest-paced story, her most ambitious narration, in which she connects real and unknown events of World War II and the Franco regime to construct the lives of some characters who not only share Spain’s fate but also Argentine’s.

From a review:

In earlier books by Grandes everything was excessive… The reading of this book has been exciting, and every one of its pages is fully justified. … to draw a true mural of our contemporary history. … It is interesting to see that the marked ideological emphasis of other of her novels … has been substituted by an objectivity where there are no bad ones and good ones, but victims and executioners. … A highly documented novel where history merges with fiction and intensifies it.

J.A. Masoliver Ródenas

The same reviewer tore to pieces Almudena Grandes’ previous novel, so this one might be worth reading. Sounds like a story by Philip Kerr set in Spain.

SOURCE: Tusquets (Planeta, publisher); review in “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, Sept. 30, 2017, pp. 6-7 (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.

Amazon.com offers her novels Child’s Play, The Last Resort, and Little Indiscretions in English.

SOURCE: Planeta (publisher)

Snippet: Antonio Di Benedetto’s “Zama”

Zama

Antonio Di Benedetto, Zama, 2016 (translation), 224 p.

You can find a summary on the NYRB Classics page.

Originally published in Buenos Aires in 1956, the English version published in 2016 made some waves on the literary horizon. J.M. Coetzee speculated that this might be the “great American novel” (cf. his review of the New York Review of Books). Benjamin Kunkel reviewed it for The New Yorker. The Paris Review had this note; and Publisher’s Weekly this review.

As to author information in English, there is a short article of the Wikipedia. The Spanish one is somewhat larger but not really extensive for an important author.

From 1977, after his release from prison and torture under the military dictatorship in Argentina, until 1983, Di Benedetto lived in Spain.

In Spanish, there recently appeared Antonio Di Benedetto, Escritos periodísticos (1943-1986) [Journalistic writings], edited by Liliana Reales, 2017, 602 p.

Jimena Néspolo, El País, summarizes it as follows:

Escritos periodísticos … contains very different texts by the author published between 1943 and 1986 –from a large article on the Mendoza Zoo written by a young guy hardly 21 years old, over the coverage of the San Juan earthquake in 1944, prestigious international film festivals or the military coup in Bolivia in the 1960s, until getting to the culture notes published shortly before he died–. 43 years of journalism where we see, above all, the presence of a singular style of writing put to the service of information.

The movie version of Zama, directed by Lucrecia Martel, starring Daniel Giménez Cacho, Lola Dueñas, Rafael Spregelburd and Daniel Veronese, produced by Pedro Almodóvar, will be released in Argentina on June 1, 2017.

SOURCE: NYRB; “Babelia”, El País, April 1, 2017, pp. 2-3 (printed edition)

Snippet: Yúfera’s “Last king of Tenerife”

Pedro L. Yúfera, El último rey de Tenerife [The last king of Tenerife], 2016, 592 p.

Publisher’s summary:

In 1474, Isabel I of Castile and her husband, Fernando, then king of Sicily and heir of the crown of Aragón, signed the Segovia Concordat. Both agreed in this treaty on the future government of the kingdoms, but a later confrontation between both monarchs let them to also secretly sign another document, that was hidden in a Valladolid monastery on decision of the cardinal Mendoza.

Twenty years later the document disappears from the monastery and the abbot charges Rodrigo, a soldier of fortune encloistered due to problems with the Inquisition, with recovering it. Besides, a dispute at the Valladolid chancellery about a possible fraud leads Gonzalo, a young and ambitious lawyer, to fall into a trap that originates his discredit and expulsion from the profession. Gonzalo moves to Seville and there, on behalf of a Genovese trader, he becomes a spy of the murky deals of Alonso Fernández de Lugo, to whom the kings have granted the command of the expedition to conquer the island of Tenerife.

It doesn’t take long before the paths of the novel’s principal protagonists cross -Rodrigo, the soldier searching for the royal document, and Gonzalo, the young guy expelled from the advocacy and converted into spy-, and together they embark on the dangerous and bloody adventure of the island’s conquest.

El último rey de Tenerife is a thrilling historical novel through which parade characters such as Guacimara, a beautiful Guanche [Tenerife aboriginal] princess, and Beatriz de Bobadilla, the beautiful and cruel mistress of Gomera, as well as great figures of the epoch, among them the very cardenal Mendoza, and his successor, the cardenal Cisneros, the duke of Medina Sidonia, and the young master of the military order of Calatrava, Rodrigo Téllez Girón.

With a clear and nice prose, Pedro L. Yúfera invites the reader to reflect on political power and its moves, and on the brutal extermination of the Guanche population as a result of the conquest, and at the same time he presents the battle of two men who confront their own past and who try to change the hardly flattering future that destiny seems to have in store for them.

“A historical novel of marked excellence, a beautiful reflection on human beings’ destiny.” (Juan Ángel Juristo, “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, Feb. 25, 2017, p.9)

Pedro L. Yúfera is a lawyer and this is his second novel.

Though a lover of history, this blogger’s “still to read list” is too long already to include this one…

SOURCE: Stella Maris (publisher)

Snippet: Ramon Llull prize 2017 to Pilar Rahola

It’s the most important and highest endowed literary prize for a Catalan novel, and also in its 37th edition it has been awarded to a so called “mediatic” author, i.e. a writer better known for their TV appearances than for their literary merits, though this year at least there exists no doubt as to the winner’s authorship in Catalan…

The 2017 winner is Pilar Rahola (Barcelona, 1958; Wikipedia article) for her novel Rosa de Cendra [Ash Rose]. The novel will be published in Catalan, Spanish, and French.

Rough summary from the source:

It is a family’s history in a very convulsive moment in which there mix hopes and miseries. Barcelona between 1901 and 1908. The protagonist, Albert Corner, after surviving the Cuban war [1898] returns to his country, but he is no longer the same: an unscrupulous man. The survivor makes a fortune and gets connected to the upper Catalan bourgeoisie. The beginning of organized trade unionism, Lerrouxisme with its dialectic anti-Catalan load, the Anarchists’ bombs… everything finds its place in the novel. In total there are two well-defined male protagonists, and the plot is centered on the Setmana Tràgica [Tragic week] of 1909.

Other writers before Rahola have written about the events of the Setmana Tràgica, for more details cf. the Wikipedia article.

Update March 24, 2017:

A few days after the award ceremony, the El País columnist Jordi Llovet had these interesting thoughts on literary prizes in Spain in general and this year’s Ramon Llull in particular (an article by Joan de Sagarra pointed it out):

Literary prizes are normally given by the publisher, not the jury; the prizes are given to individuals who guarantee good sales not for the quality of the books presented by the writers or those previously commissioned from them, but for their notoriety as public figures, often of audiovisual media; and, at last, the less money is offered in a literary prize competition -as with the Anagrama prizes-, the more solvent is the choice of the winner and the more adjusted to quality.

[As to the Ramon Llull] It would be better to call it “Honors in patriotism”.

 

SOURCE: Núria Escur, La Vanguardia, Feb. 4, 2017, p. 37 [printed edition]; Jordi Llovet, El País, Feb. 16, 2017