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.

Amazon.com 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, amazon.com) 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)

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: 8th “Ink Crimes” prize to Marc Moreno

During the opening act of Barcelona crime novel week 2017 (BCNegra), the 8th Crims de Tinta  [“ink crimes”] prize, sponsored by RBA-La Magrana (a big publishing house), was awarded to Marc Moreno (Barcelona, 1977), owner of the small Llibres del Delicte publishing house, specialized in Catalan crime novels, and author of five crime novels. The winning novel is entitled Temps de rates [Rats’ times] and set in Barcelona’s Verneda neighborhood. It starts with a drug dealer on the run who leaves a rucksack containing eight kilograms of cocaine with a neighbor of his on the same floor. Eloi draws the attention of all the mafiosi of his neighborhood who want to know where all of this material has come from. The jury decided unanimously in favor of Moreno’s novel due to “the dramatic force of the arguments and the desperate characters and the not at all complacent view on a nearly always hidden reality. […] The archetype of the losers has been brought to the extreme, creating surviving and amoral anti-heroes who, despite all of their efforts to the contrary, generate the readers’ empathy. […] The novel shows a willingness to get close to the most unpleasant reality, following the social function of a crime novel.” (Poverty, crime, drugs, and bad luck.)

Moreno’s other books are:

Cabdills [Chieftains] (2011)

Independència d’interessos [Independence of interests] (2013)

El silenci dels pactes [The silence of the pacts] (2014)

Contra l’aparador [Against the showcase] (2015)

and, together with S. Bennasar, Ll. Llort and S. Macip, La reina de diamants [The diamond queen] (2014)

Sounds a little bit like a Catalan Hunter S. Thompson to this blogger who might abstain from reading Moreno as he likes to preserve his peace of mind ignoring society’s most unpleasant domains…

SOURCE: Ara.cat (newspaper), Jan. 26, 2017

Snippet: Clara Sánchez'”What your name conceals” (Nazi war criminals Spain)

Lo que esconde tu nombre

Clara Sánchez, Lo que esconde tu nombre [What your name conceals], 201o,  427 p.

Nadal prize 2010.

More information on the novel in English can be found on Planeta’s foreign rights page (short summary) and in an article by Martyn Richard Jones from The Guardian, August 2010.

A novel with numerous weaknesses but an interesting topic: the hunt for Nazis who had sought and found refuge in Spain’s Costa Blanca region.  It is difficult to situate exactly in time: cheap mobile phones had been invented but none of the protagonists uses them, there is no reference to internet; a former concentration camp inmate from Argentina has got the energy and the means to pay a hotel stay of several weeks (months?) in Spain, etc. Its main weakness: the central story is very long, the end too short and abrupt; and it should have been written 30 years earlier, when the war criminals were still alive.

Despite all its weaknesses, the book is gripping and provides a pleasurable, though haunting reading experience. The end is somewhat disappointing (apologies for spoiling), but that is maybe the point: the hunt for Nazis who fled from justice often was a very disappointing endeavour as many either managed to keep in hiding and die peacefully there, or they were too old and weak to be judged once found and brought before a court.

In 2016, this blogger read Toni Orensanz’ non-fiction work El Nazi de Siurana [The Nazi from Siurana], about a Belgian former SS member who fled from justice and lived a quiet life in the beautiful mountains off the Catalan Golden Coast (“Costa Daurada”, Tarragona); Orensanz also discovered this only after the Nazi had died. The author names a few books as references of works that deal with Nazis who found refuge in Spain after World War II:

Simon Wiesenthal, The Murderers Among Us, 1967

José Maria Irujo, La lista negra: Los nazis que salvaron a Franco y la Iglesia [The black list: the Nazis who saved Franco and the Church], 2003, 264 p.

During World War II, while the German troops invaded Europe, hundreds of Gestapo, Abwehr and SD agents worked freely in cities all over Spain. Diplomates, journalists, businessmen, cinema producers and professional agents formed an extensive net with branches and contacts inside the administration and the elites dominating society.

In 1997, the journalist José María Irujo found the list presented by the Allies in which they asked for the repatriation of 104 alleged German spies who hid all over Spain. During five years, the author rummaged in their past in an attempt to reconstruct their lives and report their adventures. None of them was handed over: a lot of them found refuges in houses of Spaniards, while others remained hidden under the protection of the [Roman Catholic] Church and fled to South America.

The fascinating adventures of these spies of Hitler, some of whose families are still amongst us, are a faithful example of the protection the Nazis enjoyed in Franco Spain.

Javier Juárez, La guarida del lobo [The wolf’s lair], 2007, 423 p.

This work, fruit of more than two years investigating in national and foreign archives, documents the entry into Spain of fifty former Nazis and collaborationists from different countries and offers until now unpublished data on the reception offered by the Spanish authorities.

Orensanz also mentions the “factual list of Nazis protected by Spain” at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

SOURCE: Google Books [summary Irujo], Casa del Libro [summary Juárez]