Snippet: 1st Edhasa prize for historical narrative

The publisher Edhasa has created the Premio Edhasa Narrativas Históricas [Edhasa Historical Narrative Prize], endowed with 10,000 EUR, for which it received 415 entries, and the winner of the first edition is Francisco Narla (Lugo, Galicia, 1978) for Laín. El bastardo [Laín, the bastard].

Núria Escur on the contents:

It’s the story of Rodrigo Sejías’ son, who dreams that his father, the lord of San Paio, feels proud of him. But Rodrigo doesn’t return from the crusades. “I was interested in talking about this epoch and the Spanish presence in the crusades, a fact that is little known,” says the author, who had as an initial aim the weaving of a double plot: “On the one hand the relationship between an illegitimate son and his father; and on the other hand that of a daughter and a father. …” The protagonist alternates experiences and landscapes: taken in by Guy de Tarba, he goes on adventures. From Galicia to the Pyrenees, Venice, Palestine, the Mongolian empire, the Silk Route… He is persecuted by Templars (“it is hardly known that they accumulated so much money with the illegal trade in relics”), betrayed, fooled, tortured, but finally a hero. Revenge nourishes him. Falconry plays a central role. […]

This blogger doesn’t like the cover’s aesthetics and is not a big fan of the genre in general, though he has come across quite impressive works such as Robert Harris’ Pompeii and Miguel Delibes’ The heretic

SOURCE: Edhasa (publisher); Núria Escur in La Vanguardia, Feb. 17, 2018, p. 35 [printed edition; accessible through a link on the Edhasa page]

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Snippet: Biblioteca Breve prize to A. Fernández Mallo – and Luis Goytisolo republished

Agustín Fernández Mallo, Trilogía de la guerra [War trilogy], 2018, 496 p.

winner of the Biblioteca Breve prize 2018

publisher’s summary:

In these three scenarios there were fought battles: the Galician island of San Simón housed a concentration camp during the Spanish Civil War; Vietnam was the big wound of the 1960s United States; the coast of Normandy witnessed the end of the Second World War. Like the stars, that shine for us though they have expired, the dead soldiers of these battles are united to the protagonists of this story that, from the same places but today, interweave their destinies through surprising connections.

With a creative intensity that gives no respite to the readers, Trilogía de la guerra unfolds a kaleidoscope of narrations that crystalize in an unusual but certain portrait of the 20th and the baffling 21st century. As if W.G. Sebald and David Lynch had become allies to reveal the B side of our reality to us.

Agustín Fernández Mallo, one of the great renovators of our letters, gets here to unexplored heights and writes his most ambitious project, with his style that integrates disciplines such as science, pop culture and anthropology, in a novel that contains poetics of an enormous magnetism that achieves to draw a concrete and transcendental map of contemporaneity.

There is a 2017 post with more information on the author.

The winner of the first Biblioteca Breve prize, awarded in 1958, was Luis Goytisolo. He is still alive as he was only 23 at that time. His winning novel Las afueras [The outskirts] has been republished on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the prize.

publisher’s summary:

Las afueras is a daring and radical proposal that, among other things, poses the limits of what we can consider a novel. It’s made up of seven stories, seven episodes protagonized by different characters and apparently unconnected, but united by space and time: a city that with all probability is Barcelona and its surroundings, in an epoch that corresponds to the postwar period in which the book was written.

Through these stories there meet the working class and the comfortable bourgeoisie: a rich young man who participated in the war and passes his leisurely days on an estate; a retarded and sad child cared for by his grandparents; a well-off man who goes out partying with a friend and meets the one who was his assistant during the war; an old couple that lives on hardly any means in a small flat; a laborer and his wife from the South, and a young university student with the future before him… Through these characters and these stories, Goytisolo constructed a potent and innovative novelistic artifact that talks about the periphery, margination, solitude and social injustices, with which he started a literary career marked by the constant endeavour to expand the novelistic forms and to experiment with them.

Read today, Las afueras maintains all of the force that the critics of the time detected, who celebrated his ambition and his achievements.

The publisher gives this short piece of author information.

SOURCE: Seix Barral (Planeta, publisher); Anagrama (publisher Goytisolo)

Snippet: Alfaguara prize to Jorge Volpi

Una novela criminal (Premio Alfaguara de novela 2018) (Spanish Edition) by [Volpi, Jorge]

The 2018 Alfaguara novel prize (Wikipedia) went to the Mexican writer Jorge Volpi (Mexico City, 1968) for the work Una novela criminal [A crime novel].

Excerpts from the article by Ferran Bono et al. in El País:

It treats a real case “plagued by shadows:” the one that affected in 2005 the then couple Israel Vallarte and Florence Cassez, accused of a kidnapping in Mexico.

Volpi tries to bring order into the facts that led to a diplomatic incident between the governments of Calderón and Sarkozy with a “novel without fiction.” Volpi explained to El País that the pressure of the French government led to the liberation of Florence Cassez after eight years in prision, but that did not prevent Israel Vallarta from being imprisoned for eleven years without a first instance court sentence.

The Mexican writer sees himself in the tradition of Truman Capote (In Cold Blood) and others. “They use the resources and the narrative means of the traditional novel to tell true facts, and the margin of the imagination consists sometimes in filling the interstices that haven’t been clear,” he signalled. But in contrast to Capote or Mailer who “trusted in their judicial systems,” the Mexican has affirmed that his “great challenge” has been that he couldn’t believe any of his.

“In this, not totally resolved case, the function of the institutions was to give an appearance that they were resolving the facts, but with lies. The authority tried to hide that which should have been clarified. On this case there was revealed that the police had organized a TV montage to capture them.”

Infobox El País: a televised detention

Israel Vallarta and Florence Cassez were detained on a ranch on the outskirts of Mexico City. The police operation was broadcast live by Televisa and TV Azteca, Mexico’s most important TV stations, including the rescue of three kidnapped persons. Days later it was demonstrated that this was a montage planned by the police and reporters of the TV stations. In reality, the couple was detained a day earlier. The media-police farce did not prevent them from being accused and condemned. Additionally the investigation was plagued with irregularities: witnesses who had never been there; false witness obtained through threats and torture; victims without proof of having been kidnapped; and a police chief, Genaro García Luna, who would become the powerful Secretary of Public Security.

It took the writer three years to get through the documents, reading the 10,000 pages of the file to prepare his novel, whose narration starts in 2005. Since then, “Mexico, regrettably, has changed a lot. In those moments, the biggest security concern were the kidnappings, but one year later Calderón started his war on drugs. This has brought about during these 12 years a situation in which we have hundreds of thousands of dead, of disappeared; these are numbers of a civil war. It has been a terrible change.”

Fernando Savater, president of the prize jury, read the verdict: “Breaking with all conventions of the genre, the author puts the reader and reality head to head, without intermediaries. In this story, the narrator is only the eye that passes over the facts and puts them into order. His view is the question; there are no answers here, only the perplexity of the real.”

Other members of the jury were the writers Mathias Enard and Sergio del Molino, the Peruvian filmmaker Claudia Llosa, the Mexican editor Emilio Achar and the label’s editor, Pilar Reyes.

In this edition, a total of 580 manuscripts were sent in, of which 261 were from Spain, 88 from Argentina, 62 from Mexico, 69 from Colombia, 45 from the US, 21 from Chile, 22 from Peru, and 12 from Uruguay.

A diplomat, writer, mythomaniac, culture manager, Jorge Volpi is one of the most important exponents of the renovation of the Mexican literary scene of the last two decades. Together with Ignacio Padilla, Pedro Ángel Palou or Eloy Urroz, he forms part of the so-called “generación del Crack” [Crack generation]. Born between 1961 and 1968, the years of the great literary onomatopoeia, the Boom, his work has enriched the Latin-American tradition with more cosmopolitan and contemporary vectors.

The dialogue in his plots with other disciplines such as history, economics, psychology, or the introduction of historical characters into his novels –as he did in El fin de la locura [The end of madness] (2003) or in the celebrated En busca de Klingsor [In Search of Klingsor] (1999)– are some of the constants of the Mexican writer’s universe, author of more than 20 books: novels, short stories, and essays.
A law graduate and PhD in Spanish Philology, Volpi has combined his literary work with a civil service career. While a culture attaché in Paris, he was for four years the director of the Festival Internacional Cervantino [Cervantes international festival; Wikipedia]. Since last year he is the head of cultural diffusion at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Latin America’s biggest university.

 

A more thorough overview over Volpi’s life and work can be found at the Wikipedia.

Amazon.com lists a few of Volpi’s novels as available in English.

SOURCE: El País, Jan. 31, 2018; Alfaguara (publisher)

Snippet: Ramon Llull prize 2018 to Martí Gironell

In theory, the Ramon Llull prize is the most prestigious literary prize for a work written in Catalan, though in the past editions it has hardly gone to serious writers but rather to best-selling journalists (cf. older posts linked below; Wikipedia article in Catalan).

The 2018 edition (the 38th) has been no exception to this trend, and the prize was awarded to Martí Gironell for the novel La força d’un destí [The strength of a destiny].

“[T]he recreation of the life of Ceferino Carrión, born in Santander [Cantabria] and a Catalan by adoption, who managed to construct an identity for himself as Jean Leon and to turn into a popular person in Hollywood as an intimate friend of, among others, James Dean and Frank Sinatra. The book will go on sale on Feb. 28 and will be published in Catalan (Columna), Spanish (Planeta) and French (Belfond). […]

The real history of Ceferino Carrión was that of a young man who fled from grey and suffocating Franco Spain in search of fresh air. He embarks in Le Havre to the destination United States. In New York he changes his identity and becomes Jean Leon, the man who will become the confidant of big Hollywood stars. ‘With James Dean they had a project to open a restaurant, but Dean died the day before signing the contract.’ Jean Leon decides to continue alone and opens La Scala, a reference site where all the Hollywood characters of the 1950s and 60s would go. […]

[For the documentation Gironell talked to the people who knew his protagonist well.]

‘It’s the story of a desire. Of a man who leaves Barcelona at age 21 in search of the American dream and who is successful…,’ details Gironell who considers this book the work of his life. […]”

 

You can find a lot of biographical information on Jean Leon in English on the website of the spectacular wine cellar he founded in the Penedes region. The Wikipedia article is only available in Spanish or Catalan.

This blogger considers Gironell, whose main journalistic work on TV has been telling the viewers where to expect traffic problems, one of the worst authors he has ever read; maybe this book is really better than his previous ones. It will no doubt sell very well due to the Ramon Llull prize label.

There are posts on the previous editions of the Ramon Llull for 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2013.

SOURCE: article by Núria Escur in La Vanguardia, Jan. 27, 2018, p. 37 [printed edition]

Snippet: Anagrama prize to Llucia Ramis

The 3rd Premi Llibres Anagrama de Novel·la, the 2018 Anagrama book prize for a novel written in Catalan, was awarded to Llucia Ramis for Les possessions [Possessions].

The publisher’s summary:

This is a ghost story. A novel that starts with a return and ends with a howl. The narrator of Les possessions travels from Barcelona to Palma to put a break to the “conspiranoic” spiral of her father, who as a retiree has turned from being a peaceful high school teacher to start a legal battle against a presumed town planning crime.

It’s an uncomfortable weekend of conversations with a suddenly unknown father, a mother who acts as if everything was normal and a former lover and mentor. These meetings open up old wounds and bring the protagonist to the center of her family’s history, marked by a macabre event in Madrid in 1993: involved in economic martingales and seeing himself doomed to ruin, the businessman Benito Vasconcelos, the former business partner of her grandfather, assassinates wife and son and afterwards commits suicide.

Between an elegy, a chronicle and a thriller, Llucia Ramis has written a novel of multiple layers that come apart with lightness and profundity at the same time. A very personal and courageous inquiry into the past of a family and a country; into the nature of love relationships and disappointments, of ambitions and frustrations; into how we construct our own identity and hold on to objects and affections, conscious that there is nothing that lasts forever. Not even the homes where we were happy, because growing up consists in not having a place to go back.

There is a 2015 post on the writer Llucia Ramis (Palma de Mallorca, 1977). This blogger has read and enjoyed all of her novels so far and is a follower of her weekly article on the literary events in Barcelona in La Vanguardia newspaper.

SOURCE: Anagrama (publisher)

Snippet: The first literary prizes of 2018

The literary prize season in Spain has started on January 6, Epiphany day aka the Three Kings’ Day aka Nadal [Catalan “Christmas”].

From Xavi Ayén’s article in La Vanguardia:

Winner of the Nadal prize for best work in Spanish is Alejandro Palomas (Barcelona, 1967) with the novel Un amor [A love].

“This time he presents Amalia at well beyond the age of 70 and some problem of senility who keeps aiming at a single goal, the happiness of her children. The day before Emma’s wedding, her middle daughter, an annoying coincidence drops like a bomb onto the family map, breaking up the peace in a thousand pieces. Amalia will show ‘how a mother can surprise us when we thought that we had seen it all,’ said the author, who confirmed that there appear various characters already known from other [of his many] books, members of a family united by secrects, the comings and goings ‘and fundamentally the necessity to know themselves close to the each others.’

Amalia is a woman both intrusive and funny, she speaks in a run down mode, chaining concepts, and more than a mother at times she seems to be ‘a difficult friend.’ […] The tragic and the funny go hand in hand because ‘that which I like most –the author explains– is when it seems that you will shed a tear of grief and then, suddenly, you laugh at pleasure. Feeling many things at the same time, that looks a lot like life.'”

Ayén writes that Palomas’ books contain “auto-fiction” and have been compared to those by Anna Gavalda.

Winner of the Josep Pla prize for best work in Catalan is Antoni Bassas (Barcelona, 1961) for Bon dia, son les vuit! [Good morning, it’s 8 o’clock].

A chronicle that talks about the radio show El Matí de Catalunya Ràdio [The morning on Catalonia Radio], which he directed and presented between 1995 and 2008. The book is, according to those who read it, both an intrahistory of the radio and “a portrait of the evolution of a society and a country,” reconstructing “the episodes that made the audience vibrate.”

 

This blogger won’t read either… a happy 2018 to all!

SOURCE: La Vanguardia, Jan. 7, 2018