José Manuel Caballero Bonald, Examen de ingenios [Exam of wits/witty people], 2017, 464 p.
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.
J. Ernesto Ayala-Dip, Dos décadas de narrativa en castellano [Two decades of Spanish narrative], 2017, 506 p.
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…