Snippet: Sánchez-Cuenca on intellectual impudence

Ignacio Sánchez-Cuenca, La desfachatez intelectual. Escritores e intelectuales ante la política [Intellectual impudence. Writers and intellectuals and politics], 2016 (1st ed.), 2017 (extended edition), 248 p.

Publisher’s summary:

Intellectual impudence is a very common phenomenon in our public sphere. A lot of the most prestigious and visible Spanish intellectuals, almost always writers and people of letters, characterize themselves by participating in the political debate with superficial and frivolous ideas, brought forward in a sharp and arrogant manner. The intellectual impudence is sustained by a widespread impunity, that results from an absence of an explicit criticism of the opinions of the principal figures of our intellectual class. This book presents numerous examples of ill-conceived opinions, with neither attention to the facts nor to the basic rules of argumentation, on different topics such as nationalism, terrorism, and the [economic] crisis. Our most famous intellectuals don’t come out well. In front of the figure of the intellectual who pontificates on any issue, [the sociologist Sánchez-Cuenca] makes the case for a more plural public sphere, less personality centered and with more efficient filters that raise the standard of our political debate.

New, extended edition.

With the replica by Sánchez-Cuenca on the criticism by Savate, Azúa, Juaristi, Cercas…

The Wikipedia offers a short author article.

As to the current situation in Spain, especially the Catalan independence referendum, The Guardian offers a balanced view in English.


SOURCE: Catarata (publisher)


Tourism in Spain: history, bad economics

Cubierta de la obra Bienvenido, Mr. Turismo

Alicia Fuentes Vega, Bienvenido Mr. Turismo. Cultura visual del boom en España [Welcome Mr. Tourism. Visual culture of the boom in Spain], 2017, 288 p.

Publisher’s summary:

The Spanish tourism boom is a well known but hardly debated phenomenon. In the collective memory it has remained linked to a series of places —Benidorm, Torremolinos— and of symbolic icons —the bikini, “las suecas”[Swedish, read blonde, females]— that give form to a stereotyped narration. With the aim of nuancing and enriching that story, the present book proposes a revision of the boom‘s visual culture. The author analyzes a huge documentary corpus from national and foreign archives, using the analytical tools of visual studies and of the anthropology of tourism. The resulting iconographic repertoire reveals that the imaginary of the Spanish during the Franco dictatorship was a lot more complex than one could think a priori, with a constant negotiation between the images that responded to the tourists’ search for experiences and those with which a country in the process of modernization wanted to be recognized.

Blogger’s summary of the book review:

The author has studied the imagery with which Spain tried to sell itself as a tourist destination during the dictatorship of Franco until today; basically from slightly underdeveloped, rural scenes to beaches with spectacular women from Sweden and imported palm trees (from Egypt, to replace the indigenous Mediterranean pine). The book title is an allusion to a 1953 film comedy entitled “Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall”.


Alicia Fuentes Vega, in an interview that accompanies the book review, mentions other works that have studied the phenomenon:

Dean MacCannell, The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class (1976)

David Picard, several with Mike Robinson, cf. author’s page at UNIL (Lausanne, Switzerland)

Sasha D. Pack, Tourism and Dictatorship: Europe’s Peaceful Invasion of Franco’s Spain (2006)

Ana Moreno Garrido, Historia del turismo en España en el siglo XX [20th century history of tourism in Spain] (2007); there is also a Spanish blog of her research group on the history of tourism


The summer of 2017 saw a lot of articles discussing “turismophobia”, especially in Barcelona, but also in Palma de Mallorca and other places, where people protested -mostly peacefully and sometimes with great imagination- against the presence of tourists, as some of the local populations feel threatened by mass tourism that leads to price increases in housing rents and to a loss of quality of life, especially due to noise at night.


Reader’s foto taken in Malta as published in La Vanguardia, September 2017

The sociologist Manuel Castells (Wikipedia; UOC personal website) thinks that tourism as practised in Spain today and seen as a whole is bad economics, and he gives the following reasons [excerpts of an op-ed article]:

[In 2017] Spain will be visited by nearly 80M people. … In 2015, the tourism industry accounted for 11.1% of GDP and 12% of jobs. Today this means 2.8M workers. … Which means it is the motor industry of the Spanish economy… the tourism spending by the Europeans is on the rise. Except for Spain where 40% of the population have not been able to go on vacation this year.

For sure, it is cheap tourism… moving all the time away from the big operators and the hotel chains towards a tourism of semi-legal housing organized by internet intermediaris like AirBnB with the complicity of speculator owners or tenants, on break with their neighbors.

There is an evident saturation, example the Balearic Islands: 2.03M tourists vs. 1.1M residents. … The saturation of a sometimes low civic quality explains the reactions by the citizenry… mainly symbolic protest actions against predatory tourism…

… the economic benefits of this kind of tourism are more than questionable. It is simply an obsolete idea of the economy in which the only facts that count are benefits to the companies and job creation, whatever jobs these are. Forgetting the contribution to long-term development of the country’s wealth as well as the unaccounted costs, budgetary, social and environmental. … low labor productivity in Spain… directly related to predominance of sectors with low productivity such as tourism and construction. … result of workers’ low qualification… linked directly to the predominance of temp work in the sector… the work conditions frequently are inhumane… , and the salaries are the lowest of the whole labor market, on the average paying 1,000 EUR a month or less [working full time]. This has got important consequences for the deficit of the welfare state, as has been analyzed by Miquel Puig [1]. For the simple reason that these very low wages hardly contribute to the financing of the Social Security system while the benefits of health and education services and pensions also have to be delivered to these workers and their families. Which means, the more occupation is created in tourism under the conditions of temporality and precarity, the worse for the crisis of the Welfare state and less is done for the improvement of the economy which depends on the population’s capacity of consumption…

A regulated and well-structured tourism as proposed by the Government of the Balearic Islands is a blessing by our climate and our history. But the tourism as practised today is unsustainable and destructive, not only socially but also economically.

[1] e.g. in his book Un bon país no és un país low-cost (A good country is not a low-cost country; Grup62); or in a recent interview with Vilaweb (Catalan only)


cover of La Vanguardia‘s “Cultura/s” on summer festivals, designed by Jordi Labanda, June 2017


Similar observations are regularly being made by Ramon Aymerich, another of La Vanguardia‘s editor-columnists:

… The jobs that are now being created in tourism, the motor of the current economic recovery, in the best of cases are in the 1,000 EUR bracket. In the traditional management manuals, a lot of these jobs were thought of as provisional in a person’s life. … Because they are extremely routine, because of their shifts, because of their salaries… The problem is that for a lot of people they have become definitive, because it is difficult for the economy to create better jobs. … (La Vanguardia, Aug. 26, 2017, p. 48, print edition)


Another piece of recent news:

Spain’s Instituto Nacional de Estadística (National Statistics Office) published in the second week of September the current labor cost indices. These numbers showed that the labor and salary costs had declined again, 0.2% and 0.1% respectively, while Spain’s GDP is growing by around 3.1%. They also showed big differences in salaries depending on the sectors of activity. The lowest salaries are paid in hospitality… It happens to be that hospitality, the sector that pays the lowest salaries, is responsible for half of the new hirings… (La Vanguardia, Sept. 16, 2017, p. 57, print edition)


cover of La Vanguardia‘s “Cultura/s”, August 2017

The problem is to find an alternative occupation for the literally millions of Spaniards —quite a few with a university degree— who work in miserable tourism jobs.

(Amazon has put up a few distribution centers around the Barcelona area recently, but probably there are the same problems with routine, shifts, and salaries…)

[You can get economic and other data on Spain from the CIA World Factbook.]

SOURCE: Càtedra (publisher of Bienvenido, Mr. Turismo); Manuel Castells, La Vanguardia, Aug. 12, 2017; “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, Aug. 12, pp. 20-23 [printed edition]

Snippet: Roberto Bolaño’s “Cowboy tombs”

megustaleer - Sepulcros de vaqueros - Roberto Bolaño

Roberto Bolaño [1953-2003], Sepulcros de vaqueros [Cowboy tombs], 2017, 256 p.

Publisher’s summary:

An indefatigable writer, Roberto Bolaño unwinds with equal mastery in long-winded novels that made him world-famous as in short stories and novels. This volume includes three unpublished novelette’s -«Patria», «Sepulcros de vaqueros» and «Comedia del horror de Francia»- in which there is present the best of the Chilean author’s literary genius: Evil, violence, history, literature, irony, Mexico, Chile, love, suspense, searching… to which there is added one of his most celebrated characters, such as the ubiquitous savage detective Arturo Belano.

«To talk about Bolaño’s novels and short stories as fragmentary results as partial, given that each fragment depends on a unity in constant movement, in a true creative process that is at the same time the consolidation of a universe. […] The overflowing imagination, the intensity of the feelings, the incisive critic, the feverish activity or the strange characters make of Sepulcros de vaqueros an enormously atractive and original book.» (from the prologue by J.A. Masoliver Ródenas)

More from that prologue:

To Bolaño, in his itinerant writing, the journey is more important than its destination, while we are still heirs of the 19th century or traditional novel that required a lineal development with a definite end. […] We are before a narrative with a marked biographical presence […] And within the biography there are his readings […] that are an integral part of the narrative essence. […] All of these features are in Sepulcros de vaqueros, a baffling book within Bolaño’s baffling universe. […]

The book is divided into three sections, the first one, Patria, consists of 20 texts […] The second one is the one that gives its title to the whole book […] In the third section, structurally the most immediate, Comedia del horror de Francia [Comedy of France’s horror], shows a special ability to take us to a succession of new situations, with more narrative tension and with a more marked unity. […] There is a clear hommage to surrealism […]

I won’t comment the succession of brilliant histories or scenes that come up throughout the book. I am interested in underlining the dynamic of the tale, the narrative itinerary that leads nowhere, or rather, that leads to the whole of Bolaño’s work.

The Wikipedia has got this article on Bolaño’s life and work. There are older articles from The Guardian (2009) and The Independent (2013). The Barcelona Review, previously unheard of to this blogger, offers a short story translated into English.

One wonders why Roberto Bolaño didn’t publish the works that have recently appeared during his lifetime.

SOURCE: Alfaguara (PRH Spain); “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, Sept. 2, 2017, p. 10 [printed edition]

New Catalan books – fall of 2017

The first week of September has seen quite of few presentations of Catalan novels, short story collections, etc. due to La Setmana del Llibre en Català [Catalan Book Week; great website, but Catalan only], held from September 8 to 17, with bookstalls in front of the Cathedral in Barcelona and special literary events all over the city.

La Vanguardia newspaper published the new titles in chronological order; some of them will get an individual post during the fall:

09/06            Jordi Puntí, Això no és Amèrica [This is not America]

Ten short-stories, exercises of love and not-love, portraits of characters on the run and rebels in search of a place in the world.

09/06            Carles Casajuana, El retorn [The return]

The writer Josep Carner’s return from exile to Catalunya, novelized by a retired diplomat turned writer.

09/06            Carme Martí, El camí de les Aigües [The Waters’ way]

A story of different generations united by the memory of different cooking recipes of each epoch.

09/06            Lluís Maria Todó, Gramàtica dels noms propis [Proper nouns’ grammar]

09/06            Maria Guasch, Els fills de Llacuna Park [Llacuna Park’s children]

09/20             Monica Zgustova, Vestides per a un ball a la neu [Dressed for a dance in the                           snow]

Interviews with women who suffered in Soviet gulags.

09/25            Lluís Foix, El que la terra m’ha donat [That which the land gave to me]

Continuation of Foix’s memories.

10/04            Aurora Bertrana, Paradisos oceànics [Ocean paradises]

A new edition of the author’s adventures in Papeete (Tahiti)

11/02             Manuel Valldeperas, Ombres entre tenebres [Shadows in the darkness]

reissue of a work on the French camps for refugees from the Spanish Civil War, written in exile in Mexico

11/22             Josep Pla, Fer-se totes les il·lusions possibles [To get all possible illusions]

previously unpublished material from the author’s personal archives

Other titles, presented without a date of publication:

Xavier Aliaga, Les quatre vides de l’oncle Antoine [Uncle Antoine’s four lives], Pin i Soler                               Prize

Sebastià Bennassar, À. M. Escribà (eds.), Barcelona: viatge a la perifèria criminal                                            [Barcelona: journey to the criminal periphery]

ten crime stories by twenty authors, dedicated to ten different neighborhoods

Aurora Bertrana, Tres presoners

reissue of stories from World War II

Blai Bonet, El mar [The sea]

reissue, with texts referring to censorship

Joaquim Carbó, Els orangutans [The orangutans]

Jordi Coca, L’emperador [The emperor]


Martí Domínguez, L’assassí que estimava els llibres [The assassin who loved books]

A portrait of the Valencian bourgoisie between comedy and intrigue.

Lluís Llach, El noi del Maravillas [Maravillas’ boy]

The story of a singer and a variety theatre of Barcelona’s Paral·lel district.

Vicenç Pagès Jordà, Robinson

Short story about a man who occupies the house of a family that has gone on vacation.

Miquel de Palol, L’Àngel i el Mentor [The angel and the mentor]

Valentí Puig, La bellesa del temps [Time’s beauty]

diary entries

Mercè Rodoreda, La mort i la primavera [Death and spring]


Montserrat Roig, Els catalans als camps nazis [Catalans in Nazi death camps]

reissue, new edition, corrected and updated

Francesc Trabal, [Complete Works]

Rafael Vallbona, La casa de la frontera [The frontier house]; BBVA Sant Joan Prize


SOURCE: Josep Massot, La Vanguardia, Aug. 26, 2017, pp. 32-33 [printed edition]





Snippet: Javier Marías’ “Berta Isla” (2017)

megustaleer - Berta Isla - Javier Marías

Javier Marías, Berta Isla, 2017, 600 p.

Publisher’s summary:

«For some time she wasn’t sure that her husband really was her husband. Sometimes she thought that yes, he was it; sometimes she thought no, he wasn’t;  and sometimes the decided to not believe anything and continue living her life with him, or with that man who was similar to him, older than him. But also she had aged on her own during his absence, she was very young when she married.»

Berta Isla and Tomás Nevinson were very young when they met in Madrid, and very quick was their determination to spent their life together, without suspecting that what was in store for them was an intermittent coexistence and later on a disappearance. Tomás, half Spanish and half English, is highly gifted for languages and accents, which, during his years of study in Oxford, makes Her Majesty’s government take notice of him. One day, “one stupid day” that he could have done without, would condition the rest of his life, as well as that of his wife.

Berta Isla is the surrounding and passionate history of a wait and of an evolution, that of its protagonist. Also of the fragility and tenacity of a love relationship condemned to secrecy and hiding, to pretending and conjecture, and ultimately to resentment mixed with loyalty.

Or, with a quote by Dickens towards the end of the book, it is the proof that “every beating heart is a secret to the heart nearest it, that which dozes and beats at its side.” And it’s also the story of those who want to stop misfortune and intervene in the universe, to end up finding themselves banished from it.

«Berta Isla is one of the most complex and daring novels by this author and, without a doubt, his most disturbing and desolate one.»
José-Carlos Mainer, “Babelia” [El País]

«Marías has forged a masterpiece […]. Great literature is being written in Spanish again, as a privilege for us.»
José María Pozuelo Yvancos, ABC Cultural

«A woman made of resistence, sleeplessness and questions, almost Penelope. In between a plot of intensities […], with lyric reverberations, bright with caracters in the gloom and well armed.»
Antonio Lucas, El Mundo

Marías’ work is available in English by Penguin.

José-Carlos Mainer: “He still likes extended dialogues, in the same manner as he likes to introduce strange characters and comic notes, or to linger with tense scenes that touch the absurd. […] His meandering style and his perfect internal structure follow Tom’s fate…”

This blogger had a try at Your Face Tomorrow, Vol. 1, but was not totally convinced, though he really liked Marías’ early novels, such as A Heart so White or Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me. The blogger doesn’t like the new cover with the smoking woman as he is a convinced tobacco opponent; Marías however likes to be photographed with a cigarette in his hand and has often defended smokers’ “rights” in his Sunday columns in El País Semanal (supplement).

There is an older post on Marías previous novel from 2014.

SOURCE: Alfaguara (PRH Spain); “Babelia,” El País, Sept. 2, 2017, p. 3 [printed edition]

New Spanish novels – fall of 2017

Even before the school year has started in Spain, the publishing houses have opened their new season and have started putting out new titles. One of the reasons is La Setmana del Llibre en Català [Catalan Book Week; great website, but Catalan only], held from September 8 to 17, with bookstalls in front of the Cathedral in Barcelona and special literary events all over the city. Apart from new books by Spanish authors, a lot of publishers will present new editions of classics and translations.

La Vanguardia newspaper published the new titles in chronological order; some of them will get an individual post during the fall:

09/05          Javier Marías, Berta Isla

09/07           Sergio del Molina, La mirada de los peces [The fish’s stare]

09/12           Almudena Grandes, Los pacientes del doctor García [Doctor García’s patients]

09/13           Ricardo Piglia, Un día en la vida. Los diarios de Emilio Renzi / 3 [A day in life.                          The E.R. diaries, vol. 3]

09/14            Roberto Bolaño, Sepulcros de vaqueros [Cowboy tombs]

09/17             Belén Gopegui, Quedate este día y esta noche conmigo [Stay with me today                              and tonight]

09/18             David Monteagudo, Crónicas del Amacrana [Amacrana chronicles]

10/05             Carlos Zanón, Taxi

10/17             Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Eva (continuation of the Falcó series)

10/24              Alicia Giménez-Bartlett, Mi querido asesino en serie [My beloved serial                                   killer]


Other crime novels without a specific date:

Sept.               Víctor del Árbol, Por encima de la lluvia [Above the rain]

Nov.                Lorenzo Silva, Tantos lobos [So many wolves]


SOURCE: La Vanguardia, Aug. 26, 2017, pp. 33 – 34 [printed edition]

Snippet: Caparrós’ “History”

Martín Caparrós, La Historia [History], 2017 (Spain; Argentina: 1999), 1,022 p.

Publisher’s summary:

According to the author himself, “La Historia is a folly and is, at the same time, my most important book: in some way, my only book. I published it for the first time in Argentina in 1999…”. And it was time to recuperate with all honors this excessive and dazzling novel that over time has become an authentic cult work.

An unknown Argentine historian discovers in a French library a mysterious book that might contain the fundational myth of his country. The historian decides to dedicate his life to the study and annotation of this text, that tells everything about a hardly known civilization whose influence nevertheless can be traced in the thinking of the Enlightenment and the modern revolutions.

This chronicle entitled La Historia and the notes of its exegete present in detail the life of this imaginary civilization: its sexual practices, its gastronomy, its funeral rites, its commerce, its forms of war, its literature, its architecture, its loves, its diseases, its industry, its theology, its court intrigues, its end… A compendium of modern knowledge, crucible of false -or true?- quotations by Voltaire, Kyriakov, Sarmiento, Quevedo, Nietzsche or Bakunin, La Historia is a stimulating challenge for the reader, a monumental novel that works like a mirror that returns to us, in a distorted manner, our own time, its prejudices and acquired truths, its false tinsels and its just glories.

The result is a splurge of imagination, an exuberant text that could have been dreamt by Borges: one thousand mad, labyrinthine and necessary pages that mark a milestone in Latin American literature.

“A fictional monument that one reads with surprising pleasure and fluency. More than a novel, more than history, it is an encyclopedia of reading, whose decoding requires an internal map, catalogue, glossary and dictionary.” (Julio Ortega)

“A rich work, a risky undertaking that should be known.” 
(Juan Goytisolo).

“The most ambitious novel written on the continent since Terra Nostra by Carlos Fuentes.” (Héctor Aguilar Camín)

“Unusual because of this alliance of bookish skills and despotic fantasy, exercised without fear of exaggeration or extravagance.” (Beatriz Sarlo).

“Martín Caparrós proposal seems to have been to offer a foundational myth to his country, Argentine.” (Alberto Manguel).

“Something so disconcerting like the novel that Borges never wrote, a book endowed with everything that Borges apprehended in the ‘novel’ genre: a true monster of literary ambition and will.” (Alan Pauls)

“Caparrós invents, with great skill, a novel syntax. Its a beautiful Spanish, high-flying lyrical, that doesn’t correspond to any determined place nor epoch.” (La Nación)

“A mythical work.” (Clarín)

A work of art.” 
 (Los Inrockuptibles)

Publisher’s author information:

Martín Caparrós (Buenos Aires, 1957) got a degree in History in Paris, lived in Madrid and New York, directed book and cooking magazines, travelled half the world, translated Voltaire, Shakespeare and Quevedo, received the Premio Planeta Latinoamérica [Planeta Prize for Latinamerica], the premio Rey de España [King of Spain prize] and a Guggenheim fellowship. In Anagrama there have been published the novels A quien corresponda [To Whom It May Concern], Los Living [The Living] (Herralde Novel Prize 2011), Comí [I ate], and Echeverría; the chronicles Una luna [One Moon] and Contra el cambio. Un hiperviaje al apocalipsis climático [Against the change. A hypervoyage to the climate apocalypse]; and the essay El Hambre [Hunger]. offers in English Caparrós’ The Vanishing of the Mona Lisa: a Novel (2008; Valfierno 2004)

To this blogger Caparrós appears interesting due to his work on current affairs, and because a reviewer compared his monumental novel to those by David Foster Wallace, whose work your blogger appreciates a lot.

SOURCE: Anagrama (publisher)