Snippet: Writers on other writers (non-fiction)

José Manuel Caballero Bonald, Examen de ingenios [Exam of wits/witty people], 2017, 464 p.

publisher’s summary:

Examen de ingenios is a book of portrayals of Spanish writers and artists whom the author got to know, a marvelous compendium of anecdotes and reflections on some of the most relevant figures of 20th century culture.

A hundred literary portraits of artists, sorted according to a chronological order that looks to the epoch when he got to know them, unique moments, personal experiences of the author with writers and artists of five generational groups: those of the years 1898, 1914, 1927, 1936 and 1950. Among them Azorín, Borges, Pío Baroja, Max Aub, Neruda, Joan Miró, Cortázar, Torrente Ballester, Delibes, Rulfo, Jorge Oteiza, Antonio López, Mario Vargas Llosa or Paco de Lucía.

The Wikipedia in English offers some biographical information on Caballero Bonald; the full bibliography is available in the Spanish article.


J. Ernesto Ayala-Dip, Dos décadas de narrativa en castellano [Two decades of Spanish narrative], 2017, 506 p.

publisher’s summary:

The author J. Ernesto Ayala-Dip was born in Buenos Aires on Dec. 18, 1945. He moves to Spain in 1970, making his regular home since then in the city of Barcelona. In 1973, he starts his activities as a literary critic in the magazines Triunfo [Triumph] and Cuadernos para el diálogo [Notebooks for dialogue]. In 1978 he becomes a staff member at the magazine El Viejo Topo [The old mole] and he starts ocasional contributions to El País‘ book supplement. In 1991 he became a regular contributor to the sections Babelia, Cultura and Opinión [culture supplement, culture, and opinion]. During that year he also starts as a regular critic in the supplement Territorios de la Cultura [Territories of culture], of the newspaper El Correo, of the autonomous region of the Basque Country. He works as a literary critic for publications such as Revista de Libros [Book journal], Quimera [Chimera] and Qué leer [What to read]. He was a member of different juries for literary prizes, among which stand out the Dulce Chacón de Narrativa [D.C. narrative], the Premio Iberoamericano de Narrativa [Ibero-American narrative], awarded by the Junta de Extremadura [regional government], the Premios nacionales de Ensayo [national essay prizes], the Premio de la Crítica [Critics’ prize]. His articles have been published in several studies on Latin-American and Spanish literature, among which stand out those dedicated to Mario Vargas Llosa, Enrique Vila-Matas and Juan Marsé.

DOS DÉCADAS DE NARRATIVA EN CASTELLANO. Literary critique is a speculative activity. Its solidity is based on the good government of its uncertainties. Its laws don’t have the demonstrative consistency of the sciences, but they exist; and even though being approximative, they are protected by the rigour of literary tradition and by classicity (including the contemporary). Concepts such as coherence and internal balances, sense, narrative plausibility and artistic truth, among others, are operative. Maybe there are some who think it convenient that these concepts lean on psychology, others on sociology, or on philosophy, or on history.

Álvaro Colomer wrote in his short review:

… Ayala-Dip [is] without a doubt one of the most constant and conscientious critics of all that swarm around us, and in addition one of the few reviewers who doesn’t see the job as a platform for his own launch as a writer, but as a profession with enough entity to be considered an art on its own. … The volume contains only reviews written for El País. …

In my opinion the real value of this book is to be found in its prologue, where the author explains the way in which he prepared to exercise his task. It is here where Ayala-Dip teaches an authentic lesson on the craft of literary critic. …

This blogger plans to read Ayala-Dip’s book, and if not all of the 150 reviews, at least the prologue…

SOURCE: Seix Barral (Planeta, publisher Caballero Bonald); Huerga & Fierro (publisher Ayala-Dip); review by A. Colomer in “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, Aug. 26, 2017, p. 8


Snippet: The forgotten writers of 1927 (non-fiction)


Jairo García Jaramillo, Memoria contra el olvido: las escritoras de la generación del 27 [Memory against the oblivion: the women writers of the generation of ’27], 2017

publisher’s summary:

The female writers of the “Generation of 27”, in the same way as many other women of our cultural history, have been made invisible from the beginning by the hegemonic tale of the Republican period, constituting a true blind spot in the manuals of literature, bibliographic repertoires, anthologies and study programs of the different educative levels in Spain. By joining the theoretical bases of historical materialism and critical feminism, this essay in its first part means to study in depth the reasons for this selective forgetfulness by the men who experienced together with them the Republican fervour, the [Spanish Civil] war and the long way of exile, without forgetting the very pernicious policies of oblivion exercised by the dictatorship and the indifference of the subsequent democratic governments, that have crossed them out little by little from the collective memory.

In line with the memorialist currents of recent decades, and facing a system of life that never remembers, the second part enters into the origin of the first female intellectuals of the 20th century in order to explain how their pioneering political and educational claims made possible this following generation of vanguard women who, already in the space of Republican freedom, arrived at being fundamental names of our letters, still to be rediscovered, such as among others Rosa Chacel, María Zambrano, Concha Méndez or Ernestina de Chapourcín.

excerpts from an article by Adolfo S. Ruiz:

“They were intelligent, corageous, committed and great writers, but nearly all are unknown and many have been forgotten. As if they had never existed. For the publishing world, literary history, educational programs and the general public, they continue being invisible.” […]

As exceptions, María Zambrano and Rosa Chancel have not been forgotten. … María Teresa León comes up, but always as Rafael Alberti’s wife. … Besides poetry, they also wrote prose, e.g.

Luisa Carnés, Tea Rooms: Mujeres obreras [Tea Rooms: working women] (1934), recently republished

Carmen Conde, Júbilos [jubilations]

María Teresa León, Cuentos de la España actual [Stories from current Spain] (1935)

All of them remained faithful to the Republic, which led most of them to external exile, the others to an internal exile, in which their Republican past was never pardoned. … They are not meant to substitue the male writers of the Generation of 1927, but to have the place they deserve next to them as equal contributors to one of the richest periods of Spanish literary history.


The Wikipedia offers this article on the Generation of ’27 that also contains links to the biographical articles on individual writers.

The women of this generation have been called Las Sinsombrero [the hatless]; the Wikipedia has got this article (in Spanish and Catalan only). Among the references are books also available in English by Shirley Mangini and Susan Kirkpatrick, though they might have been out of print for quite a long time…

SOURCE: Libreria Atrapasueños (cover and publisher’s summary); Adolfo S. Ruiz in La Vanguardia, July 15, 2017, p. 40 [printed edition]; (cover “Tea Rooms”)

Nadal and Josep Pla prizes 2017

The literary prize cycle has begun again on 6 January = Epiphany = Day of the Three Kings = the holiday after the night children in Spain receive their big Christmas presents. For the Nadal (= “Christmas” in Catalan) prize it was the 73rd edition, for the Josep Pla prize (for a work written in Catalan, 6,000 EUR; no English Wikipedia article) the 49th.

The winners and their works:

Nadal – Spanish – 18,000 EUR – Care Santos (Mataró, 1970), Media Vida [Half a life]

A novel on the passage of time, the guilt’s weight, and the importance of forgiveness, set in the changing Spain of the 1980s; in 1981, during the week the legislation on divorce by Fernández Ordóñez is approved, to be precise. Five women meet again after 31 years of not seeing each other and after a terrible childhood experience in boarding school marked them for ever. Five girls playing the game of pledges, a harmless game that got skewed and developed into something horrible. The five women meet again to know what has happened to each of them since then and to try and find the forgiveness that maturity and the passing of time offers to them. Narrated in her usual style full of life, the work is set in the 1980s because it tries to portray an entire generation of women who had to reconstruct their destiny in a moment of deep social and political changes.

Josep Pla – Catalan – 6,000 EUR – Xavier Theros (Barcelona, 1963), La fada negra [The black fairy]

A historic thriller, set in the agitated Barcelona of 1843, of the bombardment against the Jamància rebellion. The protagonist is Llàtzer Llampades, a former merchant ship captain, marked by a tragic  shipwreck, who now works as a policeman. A policeman who has to face a series of terrible child assassinations in a dirty and claustrophobic city, still within walls, where a revolution is about to start.

Theros: “La fada negra is a thriller, a very dark crime novel, that talks about a chain of assassinations, in which there is a poor outcast who was a seaman and ends up police captain in the Camància revolution [=Jamáncia rebellion] because everybody calls him captain. It’s a novel of passions and betrayed hopes in the Barcelona of 1843, a claustrophobic city, restrained by walls that didn’t let it grow and in which there took place two events that haven’t left much of a mark: one was the Camància revolt, one of the first uprisings carried out by the poor and miserable; and the second one a a bombardment that lasted three months, from Montjuïc [mountain] onto Ciutadella [“citadel”], that crushed the revolution and destroyed one third of the city.”


In general, this blogger doesn’t like literary prizes for unpublished works in which it seems the publishing houses use the prize as a cheap publicity campaign for well-known writers they already publish, but recently he has read some works that won the Nadal prize and are really good…

There is an older article partially on Care Santos winning a prize for a juvenile novel.

Xavier Theros is a Catalan writer and poet who has published several humorous books so far and who acts in monologues (Catalan Wikipedia article).

SOURCE: Justo Barranco, La Vanguardia, January 7, 2017, pp. 30 – 31 [printed edition]



Snippet: Miguel Hernández legacy online

La Vanguardia newspaper calls it “one of the most important heritages of Spanish literature of the 20th century.” The legacy of the poet Miguel Hernández (1910-1942; Wikipedia article), i.e. nearly 6,000 files -manuscripts, brochures, sheets, historical press clippings, sound recordings, and images- have been digitalized and put online (Spanish) by the Instituto de Estudios Giennenses [Institute of Jaén Studies, IEG], a body financed by the regional administration of Jaén province.

Among the documents that can be consulted are Hernández’ correspondence with other poets of his generation, such as Juan Ramón Jiménez, and the manuscripts of works such as Cancionero y romancero de ausencias [Poetry of absences], Dos cuentos para Manolillo [Two stories for Manolillo], El niño yuntero [The yoke boy] and Canción del esposo soldado [Song of the husband soldier], among others.

One can also have a look at the suitcase with which Hernández travelled to Madrid in 1931 to become part of the literary scene there, and his Underwood  No. 5 typewriter.

The town of Quesada in Jaén province also houses a museum dedicated to Miguel Hernández and his wife Josefina Manresa, who was born there (website, Spanish).

SOURCE: article by Adolfo S. Ruíz, La Vanguardia, December 3, 2016, p. 43 (printed edition)

Snippet: Puigdevall’s “Guests of stone”


Ponç Puigdevall, Els convidats de pedra [Guests of stone], a literary study, not a novel…

Excerpted publisher’s summary:

The writer and literary critic Ponç Puigdevall (Sant Feliu de Guíxols, 1963) has gathered texts he wrote between the years 2000 and 2002 for the newspaper El Punt on rare Catalan books and authors: little known, sometimes extravagant, always remote and marginalized ones.
These little known authors are presented in chronological order, and the book starts with the figure of Antoni de Montserrat, a missioner to India at the end of the 16th century, a jesuit who created the first map of the Himalaya and who explained the Gospels to the great Mughal Akbar. And the book ends with a text on Guillem Simó’s portentous diary, En aquesta part del món [In that part of the world].
 Other authors and works to be (re-)discovered through this book are e.g. Sinibald de Mas, a student of Sanskrit theology; Francesc Pujols; Juli Vallmitjana; Josep Maria Planes’ [known as a journalist assassinated by anarchists] Nits de Barcelona [Barcelona nights]; the force of the short stories written by Cèlia Suñol; Diego Ruiz, or Ramon Vinyes; the diaries, one of the most powerful streaks of Catalan literature, of Edmon Vallès, Artur Bladé, Tomás Garcés, Marià Manent, Francesc Rierola, Gaziel, or the exquisit Hores angleses [English hours] by Ferran Soldevila.
 There are also to be found the so called “minor” works of authors who form part of the established canon, e.g. La ruta blava [The blue route] by Josep Maria de Sagarra; Nocturn de primavera [Spring night] by Josep Pla; Del Pròxim Orient [From the Middle East], a collection of articles that Josep Carner published in the diary La Publicitat as a result of his time as consul in Lebanon; the late work of Eugeni d’Ors… And progressing still further there is an altarpiece of authors and works that undeservedly haven’t had a major reception, e.g. the poetry of Joan Vinyoli; A partir del silenci [Starting from silence] by Joan Brossa; K.L. Reich by Joaquim Amat Piniella; some works by Blai Bonet; or Els estats de connivència [States of collusion] by Miquel Bauçà.
 The book’s title is a reference to Pere Gimferrer’s Los raros [The strange ones], where the latter writes: “The strange ones are the guests of stone of literature and reading.” It is above all a battle against literary ostracism, to claim their place in the chain of literary history. In a certain way it is anti-academic that doesn’t value literature according to schools, conceptual critical apparatus and theoretic systems. Puigdevall criticizes the Catalanist establishment for leaving out authors that it didn’t consider exemplary enough, e.g. for their use of a non-standard Catalan when the modern, normative Catalan was still being “harmonized” by Pompeu Fabra in the early 20th century.
This book is a feast of comparative literature and shows a reading ethic that rests on the beating force of narrative style, literary emotion and the conviction that literature is a way of personal salvation for determined spirits. Despite a host of dates, names,  works and places Puigdevall manages to show the literature’s vitality. And his skill for unfolding an essayist digression through authentic narrative  approaches, catch the readers with the same resources with which they are moved by a story.
This books sounds interesting for those seriously interested in Catalan literature – and who already master the language as it is highly unlikely that either the study itself or the works mentioned in it will ever be translated…

SOURCE: El llop ferotge (“The fierce wolf”; publisher)

Snippet: William Egginton’s “The Man Who Invented Fiction”

The Man Who Invented Fiction

William Egginton, The Man Who Invented Fiction: How Cervantes Ushered in the Modern World, 2016, 272 p.

The publisher’s summary can be found here, where there are also some snippets of peer reviews; some reviews by the general press (gist: they like the book though they doubt its central thesis):

Kirkus Review, Oct. 4, 2015

The Times, June 11, 2016

The Spectator, June 18, 2016

The Guardian, July 23, 2016


While the blogger intended to read a review (cf. source) of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s fifth volume of the My struggle series of which he is a somewhat enthusiastic follower, he stumbled on this book on Cervantes – timely published in the Cervantes year… The Atlantic review by Nicholas Dames (Columbia U) turned out to be an interesting article on the modern novel in general.

SOURCE: The Atlantic, April 16, 2016; Bloomsbury (publisher)