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)