Snippet: Buades’ “Crui” (Crexells prize 2017)

Joan Buades, Crui. Els portadors de la torxa [Crui. The torchbearers], 2016, 301 p.

Premi Crexells 2017

The project summary came in Catalan, but the novel’s publisher, Edicions Aïllades, provides a (somewhat difficult to understand) summary in English.

Some additional information from the original project summary:

It’s a psychological novel with a historical background in which we get to know an old man who is about to celebrate his farewell to a rich and full life… until an unexpected event gets him to start a rap dive into his particular hells. Because, more than anything else, Crui is an exploration on the limits of Evil and our individual and collective capacity to construct perfect stories where life is made of darns and cracks. On the way we recuperate forgotten stories that are at the base of today’s Europe and the Mediterranean, marked by the sleepwalking of the elites, by the neoliberal delirium and by the permanent party of tourism. And we talk a walk in such diverse places as Barcelona, Königsberg, South Tyrol, Majorca, the City of London, Tànger, Ibiza, or Lemberg/Lviv, in a memorable periple.

The work is especially addressed to readers who like to spend pleasurable moments with documented novels, able to provoke in them at the same time fascination and repulsion of unexpected characters and environments. Feelings that will remain once you get to the last line…


According to the literary critic Julià Guillamon, the Crexells prize is “the most important one awarded for a published work written in Catalan.” Guillamon is not convinced of the work’s originality, he thinks its “narrative agility could be improved”, and he considers it “a lively novel, somewhat boiled”.

This blogger doesn’t know what to make of the novel, maybe he should read it. He generally prefers literary awards for published works to those (more common in Spain) by the publishing houses for unpublished works by favorite writers that garantee them good sales in exchange for a generous advance on royalties in the form of a literary prize with a prestigious name that often evokes a lost prestige of the past…

SOURCE: Edicions Aïllades; Verkami (crowd-funding site); “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, July 29, 2017, p. 7 [printed edition]


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: Formentor prize to Alberto Manguel

The Argentine-Canadian author Alberto Manguel (Buenos Aires, 1948) is the winner of the 2017 Premio Formentor de las Letras [Formentor letter prize] in recognition of his work in total as “one of the most lucid inquiries in the organic history of world literature,” according to the jury. “The minute recreation of the art of reading, the expertise with which the readers learn to understand the immensity of the world belong to the encyclopedic knowledge which Alberto Manguel has used to portray the life of books.” (jury: Inger Enkvist, Lila Azam Zanganeh, Daniel Fernández, Francisco Jarauta and Basilio Baltasar)

Manguel, they say, has always been especially attentive to the importance of reading for the young generations, a fact to point out in a time such as ours in which the entertainment industry and new technologies dissipate the readers’ attention and absorb the time formerly used for emotive and aesthetic education. In recognizing the importance of Manguel’s literary work, the jury “confirms the inevitable obligation to protect the people of letters who sustain the great universal library.”

The prize will be awarded in September during the “Formentor literary conversations”.

Manguel has published in Spanish as well as in English; he is a writer, translator and publisher, member of the Argentine Academy of Letters, and since June 2016 he directs the Mariano Moreno national library in Buenos Aires (coming from Princeton University).

In his biography stands out his special personal and intellectual relationship with Jorge Luis Borges, whom he got to know during a summer job at the Pigmalion bookstore in Buenos Aires and for whom he read several times a week at his home between 1964 and 1968.

Manguel started to work at the recently founded publishing house Galerna, whose owner Guillermo Schavelzon, 35 years later and headquartered in Barcelona, would become his literary agent.

He worked as a reader for different publishing houses such as Denoël, Gallimard and Les Lettres Nouvelles in Paris, and for Calder & Boyars in London, and he received his first literary award while in Paris, in 1971: that of the Argentine newspaper La Nación for a story collection that the shared with Bernardo Schiavetta.

After he had lived in Tahiti and the UK, in 1982 Manguel moved to Toronto, Canada, where he lived until the year 2000, when he moved to a Medieval farm in France.

His first novel, News from a Foreign Country Came, won the 1992 McKitterick prize.

In 2011 came out in Spanish Conversaciones con un amigo [Conversations with a friend] in which Manguel, in a series of chats with the French editor Claude Rouquet, remembers a lot of his life’s events and the genesis of his most important books, and he also opinionates on a wide range of topics.

For his part, Manguel has remarked that it is an “enormous responsibility” having been chosen for the award, that he accepts with “honour” as a prize for his defense of reading and with respect caused by the winners of the prize’s former editions.


The Wikipedia has articles on the Prix Formentor and on the author Alberto Manguel. In contrast to most of the other Spanish literary prizes, the Formentor is a serious one that rewards quality and doesn’t involve commercial interests of a publisher…

SOURCE: EFE, El Mundo, May 30, 2017

Snippet: Lolita Bosch’s “Rage”

Lolita Bosch, La rábia [Rage], 2016

Premi Roc Boronat 2016 [prize]

Publisher’s summary:

Brave, honest and brutally personal, Lolita Bosch’s new novel remembers the bullying suffered by the author during her adolescence. The Roc Boronat prize 2016 is a moving and essential story, a denunciation of an execrable and too often silenced reality. Today, Lolita is a renowned writer and journalist; a mother who works for peace and who is happy to live. And finally she has found the strength to write about her adolescence, when at age fourteen to seventeen, like many other adolescents, she was the victim of bullying.

Lolita suffered insults and humiliations, and she felt the indifference and contempt. She became someone who wants to pass unnoticed, a nobody, and she had to learn what it means to be steel and to only want that the days that pass so slowly come to an end, an end, an end… A time of cruel complicity between classmates, but relieved by a green diary in which the author began to write about the unbearable feeling of drowning that crumbled her, about the darkness that surrounded her, and about the rage that grew thinking this would last for ever. Until today. A narration that oozes feeling and sincerity and that one reads with a heavy heart, in the same manner that the author lived during the years that she describes here. A required reading.

“To hate is to go away. To march. To flee. To lose. To feel rage however, is to feel defeated. It is like watching things from a very small and very high door that leads to an immense world far down and where nearly everything seems to be in the dark. A world where you don’t know why but you want to enter again. Make it your own. Maybe to find there the only exit door. Rage is a strange form of hope.”

Lolita Bosch was born in Barcelona in 1970, but she lived in Albons (Baix Empordà), the United States, India and Mexico, which she has considered home for more than 20 years. She is a novelist and a peace activist. But she also writes children’s and juvenile literature, essays, and she edits anthologies. Two of her novels were made into movies. In total she has written more than 70 books that have been translated into different languages. She has won prestigious awards in literature and in journalism. She constantly investigates from all possible angles the links between literature, violence and peace. lists quite a few of her books but none in English.

You can find more author information and links in this post written in 2013.

SOURCE: Ara Llibres (publisher)

Snippet: Iturbe’s “In the open sky”

Antonio Iturbe, A cielo abierto [In the open sky], 2017, 624 p.

Premio Biblioteca Breve 2017 [“Short library award”]

Publisher’s summary:

France, 1920s. Only the best pilots are accepted at Latécoère. Among the chosen are Jean Mermoz, Henri Guillaumet and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, three heroic aviators who will open the first mail delivery lines in unexplored routes. No distance is too far for them, no mountain too high: the letters need to get to their destination. When they land, they face the turbulences of life on the ground in a century divided by wars.

A cielo abierto narrates the incredible feats of three close friends that marked the history of aviation, and it is also a tribute to the author of The Little Prince, an unforgettable writer who could see reality through the eyes of a child.

Antonio Iturbe has written a thrilling novel thanks to the careful balance between fast action and the subtle emotionality projected by Saint-Exupéry’s view on the world, to the perfect characterization of the personalities and the settings of both the Parisian salons and the New York literary circles, and the universe that surrounded these legendary aviators. A celebration of literature’s essence in a story of friendship, of impossible dreams, of love and passion, of the pleasure of flying and discovering, from the sky, a beautiful planet full of mysteries.

Carles Barba (critic):

“It counts in favor of Iturbe to have written an epic of heroes in antiheroic tone. And that a story that lent itself to loops and pirouttes of all kinds, in contrast extolls the hidden and well done work, the camaraderie of the squadron, the service in favour of the community, and the intimate conviction that “the medals that count dangle on the inside.” … The greed for life, the hunger of flying, the zest for being useful and feel oneself connected with the others, and the passion of writing, these are the leitmotifs that resound in A cielo abierto… Yes, A cielo abierto celebrates the glory of existing but it also reflects its tormenting uncertainty.”

Antonio Iturbe was born in Zaragoza in 1967 and grew up in Barcelona. He is the author of the novels Rectos torcidos (Distorted straights, 2005), Días de sal (Days of salt, 2008), and La bibliotecaria de Auschwitz (The Librarian of Auschwitz, 2012) winner of the Troa Prize “Books with values” and published in eleven countries. He is the author of the children’s books series Los casos del Inspector Cito (Inspector Cito’s cases), translated into six languages, and of the series La Isla de Susú (Susú’s island). As a cultural journalist he worked for El Periódico, Fantastic Magazine and Qué Leer (“What to read”), a magazine that he directed during seven years, and he contributed to radio and publications such as Fotogramas and Avui. Currently he is the editor in chief of the magazine Librújula [“Book compass”], and contributor to Cultura/s, El País, Heraldo de Aragón and Mercurio, and he teaches at the Universitat de Barcelona and at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. (Planeta)

Iturbe’s previous novel, The Librarian of Auschwitz (Macmillan, will be published in the US on Oct. 10, 2017.

This blogger really likes Iturbe’s weekly column in La Vanguardia‘s literary supplement “Cultura/s” where he focusses on the publishing industry, especially small and new publishers who aim at quality, on cultural politics, public libraries, etc.

SOURCE: Seix Barral (Planeta, publisher); “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, March 25, 2017, p. 4-5 [printed edition]

Not strictly Iberian: Mathias Énard’s “Compass”

cover image for Compass

Mathias Énard, Compass, Prix Goncourt 2015, to be published in English on March 22 (UK) and March 28 (USA), 2017.

There are hardly any books, except for those by Karl-Ove Knausgaard, that recently have impressed this blogger in such a way that this one has. It is called a novel but could also be named a series of very lively encyclopedic articles held together by a neatly interwoven love story. A sleepless, feverish musicologist specialized in Oriental music who lives in Viena remembers anecdotes of his research journeys to Istanbul, Damascus, Aleppo, Palmyra (before the civil war), Teheran (before, during and after the Islamic Revolution), among others. He introduces the readers to Western male and female orientalists of the past, and shows how Western composers, authors, poets, etc. were influenced by Oriental authors, and how Eastern intellectuals for their part were influenced by their Western colleagues. There are a few references to Al-Andalus, to Pessoa; I learned that the island of Hormuz  in the homonymous strait was once a Portuguese colony (1507-1622; cf. Wikipedia); i.e. there is an “Iberian link”…

You can find a proper summary on the publishers’ pages (cf. source).

The Financial Times offers this review.

A blogger’s exercise in translation on “Americans in Prague” from Compass in Catalan:

… -one doesn’t know why the young Americans have become infatuated with Prague and with Kafka; they show up there in small or large groups, they spend a few months in the Czech capital, if not years, especially the young writers fresh from the creative writing universities; they go to Prague as one did before to Paris, to find inspiration; they have blogs and fill notebooks or blacken virtual pages in cafés, they drink litres and litres of Czech beer, and I am sure that some of them are still in the same place after ten years, finishing up their first novel or a collection of nouvelles [short stories] that should catapult them to glory-…

(M. Énard, Brúixola, Empúries, 2016, p. 114)

SOURCE: Fitzcarraldo Editors; New Directions Publishing (cover picture)



Snippet: Jenn Díaz’ “family life”

Jenn Díaz, Vida familiar [family life], 2017, 192 p.

Mercè Rodoreda prize for stories and narrations in Catalan 2016 (6,000 €)

Publisher’s summary:

Jenn Díaz’ stories break out in the closest everyday life: a girl who breaks off with her mother as she would with a lover, an adolescent who lives the first love and the first death at the same time, the lonely mother in front of the frightened child, the girl who doesn’t understand her sister who doesn’t live at home any longer, a birthday celebration, the father’s secret lover… Of these familiar characters, the writer grasps the moments in which there occurs a rupture, a wound, an illumination. With a whispering writing style, she creates a map of family relations, of the emotional heritage that jumps from one generation to the next, of the daily non-communication, and also of the insecurity in front of a life that sometimes offers too many paths.

Considering that two different institutions (Omnium Cultural and Enciclopèdia Catalana) work together on the book award, the prize money is laughable. The title is not really original, either -this blogger stumbled upon Rohinton Mistry’s Family Matters (2002) a few days ago- but the subject sounds interesting… and the book made it on last week’s list of the ten bestselling books in Catalan (“Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, Feb. 11, 2017).

SOURCE: Proa (Grup 62, Planeta)