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

 

 

Snippet: Montero Glez

Montero Glez, El carmín y la sangre [Lipstick and blood], 2016, 336 p.

Premio de Novela Ateneo de Sevilla [Ateneo de Sevilla novel prize]

On TV it was presented as a spy novel centered on Gibraltar during Word War II and Ian Fleming before he became a novelist, and also as “extreme”.

Publisher’s summary:

A spy novel with a political and historic background: the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the fight between communism, the Allies and fascism. Commander Ian Fleming, who later on will become famous for being the creator of James Bond, is during World War II an agent as His Majesty’s service, destined to Gibraltar with the aim of helping Major Donovan in his efforts to convince the Americans to enter WWII. In addition his mission is to do whatever possible to prevent Gibraltar from aerial attacks. Fleming arrives on the islet in February 1941 where he get to know General Clive Gerard Liddell, the governor of Gibraltar. He also gets to know the dancer Juana la Petenera. Fleming and la Petenera unite their destinies and their bodies, Fleming even falls in love with her, but the irreconcilable positions that the war infuses them, make impossible an understanding .

 The little information of the Wikipedia article on the author:

Roberto Montero González, better known as Montero Glez (Madrid, 1965), is a Spanish writer.

In his work he links himself with the tradition of the grotesque of Valle Inclán and the dirty realism of Charles Bukowski.

(The links of this Wikipedia article lead to a website and a blog that are no longer operative…)

This blogger would be interested in the historical background but doesn’t like “extreme dirty realistic” (?) novels…

SOURCE: Algaida (publisher)

Snippet: Falcones’ “The inheritors of the earth”

megustaleer - Los herederos de la tierra - Ildefonso Falcones

Ildefonso Falcones, Los herederos de la tierra [The inheritors of the earth], 2016, 896 p.

Publisher’s summary:

Barcelona, 1387. The bells of Santa María de la Mar church still sound for all of the Ribera neighborhood’s inhabitants, but one of them listens to their ringing with special attention… Hugo Llor, the son of a dead sailor, who as a 12 year old works in the shipyards due to the generosity of one of the most respected gentlemen of the city: Arnau Estanyol.

But his youthful dreams of becoming a shipbuilder have to face a hard and merciless reality when the Puig family, archenemies of his mentor, use their position before the new king to execute a vengeance they had cherished for years.

From this moment onwards Hugo’s life oscillates between his loyalty to Bernat, his friend and Arnau’s only son, and the necessity to survive in a city that doesn’t treat its poor in a just way.

Forced to leave the Ribera neighborhood, Hugo looks for work together with Mahir, a jew who teaches him the secrets of the world of wine. With him, among vineyards, vats and stills, the young man discovers the passion for the terroir, and at the same time he gets to know Dolça [“sweet”], the jew’s beautiful niece who will be his first love. But this feeling, forbidden from custom and religion, will be the one that will give him the sweetest and also the most bitter moments of his youth.

Ten years after Cathedral of the Sea, Ildefonso Falcones return to this world that he knows so well, medieval Barcelona. And he does so by another time recreating to perfection this effervescent feudal society, prisoner of a fickle and corrupt nobility, and the struggle of a man to get ahead without sacrificing his dignity.

Review [included by the publisher]: “Kipling said that craftsmanship is always at the base of all great art. We have thought of this assessment while reading the abundant (and very elaborate) second part of Cathedral of the Sea […] A good historical novel that achieves to submerge the reader in atmospheres of the past. […] A sequel that is up to the mark of its predecessor.” Carles Barba, Cultura/s, La Vanguardia

A “hyped up” book, published with an initial edition of 400,000 copies, hopefully used to crossfinance other works that don’t find a mass market. This blogger will abstain as he found Cathedral of the Sea too violent, though it probably gives a truthful picture of the Middle Ages, and the story of a wine merchant sounds like a book by Noah Gordon…

The book title probably is an allusion to Matthew 5:5: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

SOURCE: Grijalbo (Penguin Random House)

Iñaki Martínez’ “City of lies”

Iñaki Martínez, La ciudad de la mentira [City of lies], 2016, 464 p.

The publisher offers a summary in English.

On the author:

Iñaki Martínez (Guatemala, 1954) is the son of a Panamanian mother and a Basque father (an exile and member of the Brigada Vasca [Basque brigade] during World War II). A law graduate, he grew up and studied in Spain, and during his youth he was a founding member of Euskadiko Ezkerra and member of various anti-Franco political organizations in Euskadi [Basque Country]. His life has always been spent between Latin America and Spain: he was part of the international relations commission of the guerrilla of El Salvador and worked as international representative for the Basque government. He also wrote on international politics for different newspaper from the Basque Country, Panama, Mexico and Nicaragua. He is the author of Arresti, a novel on the relation between ETA and the business world. With City of Lies he was finalist of the Nadal prize 2015.

The novel’s central theme sounds interesting and the “Cultura/s” review was a positive one; often the finalist works of the big prizes are considered the real literay winners. On the other hand, the readers valuations on the publisher’s website don’t sound too enthusiastic…

SOURCE: Destino (publisher)

Carme Riera’s “Last words”

Carme Riera, Les darreres paraules [Last words], 2016, 176 p.

BBVA Sant Jordi prize 2016 for Catalan literature (35,000 EUR)

Publisher’s summary:

Carme Riera novelizes the life of a free, exciting and adventerous character: the archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria.

In a discovered manuscript, Ludwig Salvator of Habsburg-Lorraine (Florence, Tuscany 1847 – Bohemia, Austria-Hungary 1915) confesses the secrets of his love relationships, some of them tragic, and he presents personal but objective points of view on the events that changed the map of Europe of the 20th century, from Meyerling to Sarajevo. Cousin of the emperor Francis Joseph and the empress Elizabeth, the famous Sissi, maybe he could have prevented the unleashing of World War I.

An unrepentant and mysterious traveler, a man of letters, naturalist and ecologist avant la lettre, the archduke was also in love with Majorca. On the island he built his small paradise kingdom.

Les darreres paraules reveals through alledged memories the family, love and political experiences of an extraordinary person who, even though he belonged to Europe’s most important imperial family, lived far from conventionalisms.

 

One can consider the advertising’s sentence on a possible influence on the politics before World War I as pure marketing, cf. e.g. Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War. Nevertheless the archduke has fascinated this blogger ever since he read of the 2015 exhibition held in Majorca to commemorate the centenary of the archduke’s death. The curator of that exhibition was no other than this novel’s author…

The Wikipedia has got a short article in English on the archduke, more extensive in other languages.

More on the writer and academic Carme Riera (Palma de Mallorca, 1948) can the found in the Wikipedia article and a biography page of the Catalan writers’ association.

SOURCE: Grup 62 (publisher); Vilaweb, June 20, 2016