Snippet: Congratulations, New Yorker!

“At the Strand,” by Jenny Kroik

What a lovely cover, and what a longing to get back to The Strand bookstore in lower Manhattan…

SOURCE: The New Yorker, Nov. 13, 2017


Snippet: Aurora Bertrana’s “Oceanic paradises”

Aurora Bertrana, Paradisos oceànics [Oceanic paradises], (1930) 2017, 283 p.

According to Wikiquote:

Paradisos oceànics  was the first travel book published by the writer Aurora Bertrana i Salazar in 1930; a collection of articles that she wrote and mailed between 1926 and 1929 to the periodical D’Ací i d’Allà [“from here and there”] from Tahiti [French Polynesia]. The work, written in prose, is divided into four sections following the geography of the Society Islands: Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea and Bora-Bora.

The critic Julià Guillamon, who also works in the field of rescuing 20th century women authors from oblivion, remarks in his review of the new edition that the original cover was electric blue, with the title printed in the then fashionable Grotesk Lichte (1924) font.

Resultat d'imatges

Bertrana didn’t travel to the Pacific as an independent explorer but as the wife of Denys Choffat, a hydroelectric engineer charged with building a power plant in Papeete. The new edition in Catalan contains the part of Bertrana’s memories in which she describes the writing of the book, and eight texts of hers that had been only published in Spanish so far. There are also texts by modern authors who appreciate Bertrana’s work and her role as author and anthropologist, and who put her work into the context of 1930s women’s literature.

There is also available a new edition in Spanish, translated by Jenn Díaz.

The Wikipedia offers a concise article on the writer Aurora Bertrana (1892-1974) in English.

SOURCES: Julià Guillamon, review in “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, Nov. 11, 2017, pp. 5-6 [printed edition]; (2017 cover), blogger (original cover)

Snippet: Pérez-Reverte’s “Eva” (Falcó series no. 2)

megustaleer - Eva (Serie Falcó) - Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Eva, 2017, 296 p.

Publisher’s summary:

March of 1937. While the Spanish Civil War continues its tragic course, a new mission brings Lorenzo Falcó to Tánger [Morocco], a turbulent crossroads of spies, illicit trades and conspiracies, with the assignment to achieve that the captain of a ship that carries gold of the central bank of Spain changes its flag. National [rebels], Republican [legitimate government] and Soviet spies, men and women, face a dark and dirty war in which there will return dangerous ghosts of the past.

After the international success of Falcó, reality and fiction again intertwine in a masterful way with the literary talent of Arturo Pérez-Reverte in this amazing novel of fascinating reading.

Sergio Vila-Sanjuán met the author in Tánger and commented in “Cultura/s”:

… Lorenzo Falcó. Black sheep of a distinguished family from Jerez dedicated to the wine trade, expelled with dishonor from the army for a s** scandal, arms dealer for Basil Zaharoff and later recruited for Spain’s intelligence agency, for which he has worked serving different governments and regimes, and now, in the middle of the Spanish Civil War, he does so for Franco’s General Staff. …

Now in Eva, the plot centers around a ship full of Republican gold, which leads to a clash between Falcó and his passion and at the same time antagonist of the previous episode, the Russian spy Eva Neretva, with whom he gets into a fist-fight in a shocking chapter.

Pérez-Reverte has brought a new and unexpected brilliance to the up to now rather sleepy genre of Spanish spy novels…

[He names as precedents] Luis González Mata’s Cisne [Swan; memories of a Spanish spy, 1977], essays and novels by Fernando Rueda [the Wikipedia lists eleven works (Spanish)], and the forgotten story collection by Ricardo Fernández de la Reguera, Espionaje [Espionage; 1963] …

[He describes how Pérez-Reverte totally immerses himself into the locations of his novels.] The result maintains a tone of atmospheric hyper-realism. [El País Semanal recently had an article on the author and his spy in which it showed the accumulated memorabilia and he cites the author:] “Today we can’t write like in the 19th century, because the readers have a lot of audiovisual culture. You don’t need to describe a room to them. But instead, by introducing references to certain objects, one can start a series of evocations in their brain.” …

In Eva he reconstructs the Mediterranean world, full of turbulent characters and communist and fascist agents, that inspired the novels by Eric Ambler and that in recent times cultivators of the spy genre such as Alan Furst or comic authors such as Vittorio Giardino have tried to revive. …

Arturo Pérez-Reverte already works at the third adventure of Falcó, of which he knows one thing for sure, “he will end up retired in Argentina, where he will die in the 1960s.”

SOURCE: Penguin Random House (publisher); Sergio Vila-Sanjuán in “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, Nov. 4, 2017, pp. 4-5 [printed edition]

Snippet: S.W. Junqueira’s “When giraffes lower their neck”

Sandro William Junqueira, Quando as Girafas Baixam o Pescoço [When giraffes lower their neck], 2017, 192 p.

Publisher’s summary:

An obese woman enjoys buying hyacinths, the unemployed man dreams of a goulash dish, and there are two sisters who are sewing complicated lines between them. From time to time, in the intervals of the city’s noises, you can hear the music of Brel, roses growing, or a program about animal life – How is it that the giraffe’s head doesn’t burst if it is so far from the heart? In common, between the feet that make noise on the top of the head and the feet that annoy those who are below, only [that they are] inside the cement cage where they try to pack up the little lives, and nevertheless [there exists] the desire to be a bird.

Sandro William Junqueira (Rhodesia, 1974) continues to build, now at a height, a literary territory of discomforts and drives that was still to be charted, and  he has returned to fiction with a book made of feathers and concrete.

Some biographical information:

In 1999, together with Paulo Quaresma, he founded the theater company A GAVETA [the drawer]. From there, he works as artistic director, director and actor. From 2002 onwards he has regularly published poetry and short stories in magazines and fanzines. He is often invited to share poetry in recitals. In 2007 he started a regular work in schools and libraries with the creation and performance of different ateliers and shows to promote books and reading.

His earlier books are A Grande Viagem do Pequeno Mi [The great journey of the little me] and A Cantora Deitada [The singer lying down]. He also published No Céu não há Limões [In heaven there are no lemons],  O Caderno de Algoz [Algoz notebook], Um Piano para Cavalos Altos [A piano for high horses]. He was one of the eleven authors of the crime novel O Caso do Cadáver Esquisito [The case of the bizarre corpse], and one of the authors of the short-story collection Dez Contos para Ler Sentado [Ten tales to be read seated].

The contents of his latest book and the other titles sound really strange to the blogger but he likes reading promoters.

SOURCE: Caminho (publisher);

Snippet: Hygge, only partially applicable on the Iberian peninsular

While northern countries face a dark, damp and cold winter, the inhabitants of the Iberian peninsula enjoy rather temperate winters with regular sunshine and temperatures that will often reach 18º C / 64º F during the day. Therefore, this blogger was astonished to find out how many books on Hygge have been translated into Spanish.

Denmark was the leading country in the World Happiness Report 2016, where Spain ranked 37. Beyond their welfare state (which this blogger would name as the main reason) some point to hygge as the secret of Danish happiness:

The art of living well. “Security”, “cozy”, “comfort” and “protection” are some of the words associated with its practice, as well as candles, coffee, chocolate or cookies (or other sweets); a good movie or book, warm socks and good background music would complete the scene.

“It’s a feeling of commitment and linkage, of belonging to the moment and to those around us,” according to Louisa Thomsen, author.

The books also available in Spanish are:

Meik Weiking, The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living

Louisa Thomsen, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection

Marie Tourell Soderberg, Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness

La Vanguardia saw it close to the concept of mindfulness of which there are even more books available in Spanish:

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (? – Vivir con plenitud las crisis)

Sylvia Comas, Burbujas de paz [Bubbles of peace]

Shamash Alidina, Mindfulness for Dummies

Rohan Gunatillake, 24 h Mindfulness (? – Mindfulness para llevar)

Carla Naumburg, 1,2,3 ¡Respira! [1,2,3 – breathe!]

Andrés Martín, Plena mente [Full mind]

Eline Snel, Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents)

This blogger thinks that apart from the nice winter weather -that limits the use of candles and the drinking of tea to very few days-, people on the Iberian peninsula in general are less likely to be depressed than other Europeans due to strong family relationships. These might prevent them from getting better job opportunities in other parts of their countries or in northern Europe (resulting in less “material happiness”) but lead to better psychological health – though this is a purely subjective observation for which he can’t cite any scientific proof… And in order to overcome economic problems, people might have to give away some of the family closeness.

“Mindfulness” might be a more important concept due to long working hours that often make the conciliation of work and family life difficult for those fortunate enough to have a job at all.

SOURCE: Planeta (cover); “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, Feb. 11, 2017, p. 5 (printed edition)


Snippet: Lorenzo Silva’s “They will remember your name”

Lorenzo Silva, Recordarán tu nombre [They will remember your name], 2017, 496 p.

Publisher’s summary:

In this novel Lorenzo Silva narrates in the first person how he discovered one of the most heroic and tragic moments of Spanish history, surprisingly forgotten by nearly everybody. A key event marked by the antagonism between two men. The history of the military coup in Barcelona on July 19, 1936, the General Goded’s challenge of the republican legality, and General Aranguren’s, the top responsible of the Guardia Civil, decision, who chose to defend democracy.

Aranguren’s refusal to collaborate with the coup and his faithfulness to the Republic are part of our history, but a part that is seldom narrated. And the fact that this is one of our least known and most awkward episodes turns it into one of the best stories that the literature on the Civil War can give us.

This is the story of a forgotten hero. A man who was able to set loyalty and his sense of duty before the orders of those who would end up in power.

The critic Jordi Amat agrees that the General Aranguren is a fascinating figure and that Silva managed to collect quite a lot of important material in his book, but he doubts that it works as a novel:

“He soaked in the best bibliography, he talked to the descendants of the protagonist and he searched the archives. … As a biographic reconstruction, the book works. … More doubtful, on the other hand, is to determine if the transformation of this information is a magnetic narrative artefact as pretended by a good novel. The story couldn’t be more forceful and had to be explained, but so much meticulousness tires the reader because the commotion of the facts lies, above all, not in the precision but in the effectiveness with which they are reworked.”

This blogger enjoyed some of Silva’s crime novels in the past. There is 2015 post on one of his books.

At the same time as Silva’s novel, there appeared Sonsoles Ónega’s Después del amor, set also in the Barcelona of the Spanish Civil War (blog post).


SOURCE: Destino (Planeta, publisher); review in “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, July 8, 2017, pp. 4-5 [printed edition]