Snippet: V.L. Mora’s “Fred Cabeza de Vaca”

Fred Cabeza de Vaca

Vicente Luis Mora, Fred Cabeza de Vaca [Fred Cowhead], 2017, 332 p.

28th Torrente Ballester prize

publisher’s summary:

A female academic plans to write a biography on “the most universal Spanish artist since Picasso”: Fred Cabeza de Vaca [Fred Cowhead]. For this she dives into an investigation that pretends to reconstruct the late artist’s life, but mainly to try to decipher the enigma behind the artist and the polemic person. Through interviews with both, colleagues as well as ex partners of the artist (of whom he keeps track with a numbered register as if they were objects to collect and discard), and through the writings and diaries of Cabeza de Vaca himself, there emerges a figure sometimes fascinating, sometimes repulsive, that functions perfectly as the archetype of the spell and the excesses of the contemporary art’s world. Thus, as readers we struggle to seek to understand if Cabeza de Vaca was a genius or a phoney, a visionary or an opportunist, an intelligent promoter of himself or a hopeless careerist.

Using a technique similar to that of the collage, Vicente Luis Mora has created a fascinating portrait of an artist, an epoch and a world, that of contemporary art, defined by excesses and by the radicality of carrying the work to limits that, as shows the case of Fred Cabeza de Vaca, often end with devouring the whole existence of those who decide to offer themselves in pursuit of the glamour and fame implicit in today’s art.

from a review by J.A. Masoliver Ródenas:

Fred Cabeza de Vaca represents an enormous leap [in the writer’s career], an ambitious novel into which he put six years, convinced that a writer’s greatness can be found in his most radical indepence. […] The literary references don’t define only a type of aesthetics but also a type of ethics, when he celebrates authors such as Salinger or Pynchon, far away from the world’s roar. […] He cites the Latin classics, Novalis, Paul Valéry […] The novel has got two centres, both equally forceful: the intelligent reflections on art and on his art, that show Mora’s solid knowledge and his alert intelligence. But that which will really fascinate the readers is his relationship with women. […] But the most intense pages are those of physical decay, the defeat that converts him into a human being. The novel ends with an incredible turn that resumes that which has been insinuated all through the book: the Spain of individual and public putrefaction. […] Fred Cabeza de Vaca is a formidable revelation.

SOURCE: Sexto Piso (publisher); review in “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, Nov. 11, 2017, p. 6 [printed edition]


Snippet: Cervantes prize 2017 to Sergio Ramírez

megustaleer - Ya nadie llora por mí - Sergio Ramírez

“Nobody cries for me any longer,” Ramírez’ latest novel (Alfaguara, PRH Spain)

The 2017 Cervantes prize, the most prestigious of Spanish letters, has been awarded to Sergio Ramírez (Nicaragua, 1942), the first Nicaraguan and the first Central American ever, who will receive it on April 23, 2018, in Spain.

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla characterized him as follows in El País:

A writer in a wide and broad sense of the word. A total author at 75 years: novelist, essayist, memorialist, journalist. But also a politician. A man of straight principles, committed to the Sandinista Revolution to the point of having been named vice-president –a position that he exercised from 1985 to 1990– by a Daniel Ortega who considers him his main nightmare today. He has been a critic of the authoritarian drift of his country. The international prestige of his conscience, that of a creator translated into 20 languages all over the world, weighs.

The Wikipedia has got this article in English. offers the following of Ramírez’s books in English:

Margarita, How Beautiful the Sea

Divine Punishment

Adiós Muchachos: A Memoir of the Sandinista Revolution

A Thousand Deaths Plus One

Hatful of Tigers: Reflections on Art, Culture and Politics

To Bury Our Fathers: A Novel of Nicaragua

Sandino: The Testimony of a Nicaraguan Patriot, 1921-1934


This blog contains articles on the Cervantes prize for 2014, 2013, and 2012.

SOURCE: El País, Nov. 16, 2017


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); (English titles)

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: Planeta 2017 to Javier Sierra

Javier Sierra (Teruel, 1971), “the king of Spanish conspirative thriller” (C. Geli, El País), won this years Planeta novel prize (edition no. 66) for El fuego invisible [The invisible fire]. Sierra is best known for La cena secreta [The secret supper: a novel] (2004) and El ángel perdido [The lost angel: a novel] (2011).

El fuego invisible is Sierra’s eighth novel. Its protagonist is a young university professor and researcher from Dublin who spends a few days in Madrid. There he gets into dangerous investigations following the traces of the mythic Holy Grail. The novel, according to its author, “revolves around a word invented in the 12th century: Grail. And around the question of where the ideas come.”

“A fast-paced narration and a tremendous erudition about the topic (the author tends to have visited all the scenarios where his plots happen) mark a novel that fits well with the Sierra brand, well defined already in 1998 when he debuted with La dama de azul [The lady in blue: a novel] in which, using the figure of the 17th century nun María Jesús de Ágreda, detained by the Inquisition, he plays with his famous bilocations to weave a plot with psychic CIA spies and experts from the Vatican. The success… was ratified with The Secret Supper, which he constructed from supposed criptic messages on the canvas of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci and that brought Sierra to global fame, being published in 42 countries and selling more than three million copies. … He has been called the Spanish Dan Brown, but better documented.”

Another novel by Sierra available in English is El maestro del Prado [The master of the Prado: a novel].

Runner-up, by many considered the really important work as to literary quality, was Cristina López Barrio (Madrid, 1970) with Niebla en Tánger [Fog in Tanger], “in which the monotonous life of a young deaf woman turns into a fast-paced intrigue after spending a night with a mysterious stranger.”

“… even though she started out with juvenile literature, López Barrio has found a balance between fast-paced investigations and female psychological portraits. She already did so in her first adult novel, La casa de los amores imposibles [The house of impossible loves] (2015; translated into 15 languages), about a saga of women condemned to suffer from love; she then followed the thread with El cielo en un infierno cabe [Heaven fits into one hell] (2013) and Tierra de brumas [Land of fog] (2015); and she repeats it in Niebla en Tánger, where a young woman with an anodyne life, after spending a night with a man, finds herself involved in a mysterious plot. The only clue of her lover is given by the novel that he left on the bedside table, that will coincide with his real life. ‘It is something very close to my history, an emotional journey by a woman in crisis who is searching to find herself’.”


This blogger doesn’t like Dan-Brown-like mystery novels and won’t read this year’s Planeta, maybe have a look at the runner-up’s older novel…

SOURCE: El País, Oct. 16, 2017

Snippet: Sergio del Molino’s “The fish’s view” and “Empty Spain”

megustaleer - La mirada de los peces - Sergio del Molino

Sergio del Molino, La mirada de los peces [The fish’s view], 2017, 224 p.

Publisher’s summary:

In 2016 Sergio del Molino wasn’t surprised when his former High School teacher in philosophy, the activist Antonio Aramayona, told him that he would commit suicide.

La mirada de los peces starts out as a book on this charismatic teacher, extreme defender of public education, separation of church and state and of dignified death, to then turn into a dialogue with the past and the memory of the author himself, who remembers an adolescence full of rage, noise and violence in the poor Zaragoza neighborhood from where he always planned to escape.

In this dialogue “between the past and the present, written from a first person into which many readers can put their own,” Sergio del Molina explores the guilt for abandoning those who taught us to see the world, the first betrayals and deceptions and the always gray limits between rebellion and complicity with the abject, returning always to the figure of a “incredibly coherent” teacher who actuated the springs of some youths in search of their own nature.

The critic J.A. Masoliver Ródenas wrote in his review:

“… So there are a lot of journeys into the past. This allows for a lot of narrative freedom but at the same time encourages dispersion. Antonio turns  into a very repetitive character. …  Amusing and interesting, La mirada de los peces results likewise imperfect.”


Sergio del Molino, La España vacía: viaje por un país que nunca fue [Empty Spain: journey through a country that never was], 2016, 292 p.

Publisher’s summary:

More than 50,000 readers, 9th edition

Book of the Year prize by the booksellers of Madrid, Cálamo bookstore

Book of the year of the press:

Babelia · El Cultural · El Periódico · La Vanguardia · Marca · The New York Times en español

The book half of Spain is talking about

“There are two Spains: one urban and European, and one interior and deserted Spain. The communication between both has been and continues to be difficult. Often they seem foreign countries one from the other. Nevertheless, one can’t understand the urban Spain without the empty one.”

This interior Spain of the Quixote, the one seen from the highway, that of the villages that for some are the happy hamlet of childhood summers and for others the landscape of the black legend is the empty Spain of this essay.

Buñuel, Azorín or Almodóvar used it as settings. The politicians go there during election campaigns and they forget it as soon as they get to power. Urbanites return there dreaming of an easier life. And those who live there go to Madrid to shout that they exist.

A very original and moving essay, written by a young voice with  a political view and a literary sensibility. An essential book that will make you think about your family, your roots, and your form of living.

Sergio del Molino (Madrid, 1979) is the author of La hora violeta [The violet hour], a novel for which he received, among others, the Ojo Crítico de Narrativa [critical eye for narrative] and the Premio Tigre Juan 2013 and that has been translated into various languages.

Other books by Sergio del Molino:

Soldados en el jardín de la paz [Soldiers in the garden of peace] (2009) – reportage on the German colony of Zaragoza

Malas influencias [Bad influences] (2009) –  short story collection

El restaurante favorito de Nina Hagen [Nina Hagen’s favorite restaurant] (2011) – collection of chronicles and journalistic pieces

No habrá más enemigo [There won’t be more enemies] (2012) – novel well received by the critics

La hora violeta [The violet hour] (2013/2016) – the love letter by a father after watching his son Pablo die from leucemia. Available as an English-language paperback on Amazon.

Lo que a nadie le importa [That which doesn’t matter to anybody] (2014) – the portrait of a family and of an epoch in which, through the figure of the grandfather, there is expressed helplessness as a human condition


This blogger intends to read the essay on Spain and skip the novel(s) so far.

SOURCE: Literatura Random House (PRH Spain, publisher La mirada…); review in “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, Sept. 23, 2017, p. 6 (printed edition); Turner Libros (publisher La España vacía)