Snippet: Notivol’s “Emptying the cabinets”

Rodolfo Notivol, Vaciar los armarios [Emptying the cabinets], 2016, 388 p.

publisher’s summary:

Marina, the second of nine siblings, looks back after the years and in a long monologue slowly reveals the history of her family. With its lights and shadows, the records surface with the naturalness of her who narrates in the only possible way what happened.

In the same way as when an old family cupboard is emptied, the words and events of a whole lifetime are exposed to light again: the child games, the complicity of and differences between siblings, the house where they grew up, a mother with a sour character who irradiates a powerful presence, the different ways that they took when they became adults. And in the background, the necessity of affection and the incapacity of showing it. The search for happiness, the outstreched hands and the words that were not spoken.

In Vaciar los armarios, Rodolfo Notivol narrates in a masterful way stories as universal as those of all families, and so particular as those that only happen in our family.

Juan Ángel Juristo (critic): “… the reader is torn between tears and laughter. This is the best quality of the book, which makes it precious.”

SOURCE: Xordica (publisher); J.A. Juristo, review in “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, May 27, 2017, p. 8 [printed edition]

Tourism as a social problem

Unofficial translation of an op-ed article by Julio Llamazares, published in El País:

I come back from Lisbon, exhausted from fighting with the thousands of tourists that by day and night fill the streets of the white city, apparently recently en vogue such as other cities of the center and the south of Europe. It had been some time since I last visited the place, and besides the views, the historic monuments and the streets with its characteristic trams, a lot of them already used by tourists only, it took an effort to recognize it, such has been the change during recent years. The famous gentrification, the economic and aesthetic epidemic that consumerism imposes wherever mass-tourism gets to, has converted Lisbon into a new Barcelona in the same manner that Barcelona is a reflection of Rome or Prague. With the exception of the monuments, the modern neighborhoods and a few corners, everything has been homologated in these cities; the traditional trade and commerce has disappeared, substituted by franchises and by fashion stores; and the local populations are devoted to the unscrupulous fleecing of the tourists, who, rather than travellers, have been turned into victims of a new and legal banditry, accepted by all or nearly all. “Don Dinero” (“Sir Money”) is too powerful to take into account ethical considerations.

But the problem of gentrification and the excess of tourists begins to affect also these populations that observe how their cities become more expensive all the time and practically impossible to live in, which pushes them to the suburbs or into madness, such are the noise and agglomeration of people. While I was in Lisbon I read in this newspaper that for the native population of Barcelona tourism already constitutes the major problem in their daily life, above unemployment and the crisis that topped the list before. I.e. that which was seen as an economic solution begins to be seen as a problem by many, including by a lot of those who live off it. Even though tourism creates jobs, the precariousness of these and the increase in the cost of living brought about by tourism have negative effects on them. And the same happens with the environment, that is meant to be restored with new taxes on the tourists, which ultimately are nothing else but a new form of fleecing.

One of the big changes of the last decades of the 20th century and the first ones of the 21st is the massification of travel, until then a privilege of the upper classes or of romantic wanderers who tried to find themselves in the landscapes of other places in the world. I don’t think that anybody is against the democratization of travel, as nobody can be against the democratization of knowledge, but if it is not regulated in some way, tourism is going to be (already being it in a lot of places) the last plague of humanity.

SOURCE: Julio Llamazares, El País, July 1, 2017, p. 2

Snippet: Cabré’s “When the twilight comes”

Jaume Cabré, Quan arriba la penombra [When the twilight comes], 2017, 288 p.

Publisher’s summary:

A frightened child that rebels against the tyranny of a teacher, a murderer who confesses in front of the next victim, a thief consumed by a painting that he just stole, a writer who threatens his publisher with suicide, an old man who takes a walk through the settings where he served during the war… These are shocking stories that intertwine or meet each other, always with dynamism, energy, a touch of humour and incursions into fantasy.

Quan arriba la pensombra is a collection of stories that light up like flintstones. There are restless individuals who would like to be somewhere else, lawless characters, aromas of a thriller, bits of irony, fantastic elements… with the technical mastery that has made him a celebrated author in all of Europe -forward and backward jumps, changes in the viewpoint, braiding voices-, but also with the vital passion. Jaume Cabré has put together a compact book without any superfluous word. Quan arriba la penombra is a story collection imbricated in a solitary and full cone, stories touched by darkness and rage, but also by irony, fantasy and playing.


Cabré’s previous novel Confessions has been translated into English, cf. this 2014 post, one of the most popular ever on this blog. There is also a 2015 post on an essay.

SOURCE: Grup 62 (Planeta, publisher)

Snippet: Aldekoa’s “Children of the Nile”

Xavier Aldekoa, Hijos del Nilo [Children of the Nile], 2017, 312 p.

publisher’s summary:

The Nile is not a river. The most important African river is the heart of hundreds of villages and the indefatigable witness of the rise and decline of the mightiest Pharaoh dynasties in the world. Its name evokes secrets hidden in pyramides and feeds the pride of milenary civilizations that still today fight for their survival.

The Nile is today the peace in the north of Uganda but also the war in Southern Sudan; it’s life in the valleys of Ethiopia and death in the dungeons of Egypt and Sudan. It is dictatorship, inequality, progress, hope and longing for liberty. It is also the dream of a revolution. Despite its scars, the Nile is still the craddle of the mixture of the great African and Mediterranean cultures of the past and the present.

During various months Xavier Aldekoa travelled the Nile river, from its sources to its mouth, to discover its peoples, its cultures and its traditions. Through the stories of those who live on its shores he brings us closer to other worlds that, despite all, are not that far away. Because the Nile is a soul piece of western culture. A chance to look at the different. To understand the other and to understand ourselves.

We are all children of the Nile.

At the book presentation in Barcelona, Aldekoa was accompanied by Jordi Évole, a journalist who dedicates his Sunday night prime-time investigative TV show to important topics, such as the refugee crisis on the Mediterranean, ALS and euthanasia, etc.

SOURCE: Planeta (publisher)

Snippet: Lisbon book fair 2017


86ª Feira do Livro de Lisboa

DATE: June 1 – 18, 2017

PLACE: Parque Eduardo VII, Lisbon

EVENT: the biggest Lisbon Book Fair ever: 602 editorial brands in 286 pavillions; opening  with a “children’s day”; a special interest in cookbooks and show cooking;  more than 40 restaurants, including seafood and vegetarian ones; special childcare and pet refreshing areas to favour family visits; a “happy hour” for book sales with discounts of up to 50% (10-11 pm); 500,000 visitors expected.

SOURCE: Feira do Livro (organizer); Diário de Notícias, June 1, 2017;  RTP (Portuguese state tv and radio station)

Not literary: Norman Foster Foundation Madrid

To be opened on June 1, 2017 with a forum “Future Is Now”.

74,000 items, among them 400 models of the most important buildings, 1,239 notebooks with sketches, 8,000 project drawings, 56,000 photos, his professional library and archive, correspondence and memorabilia, an art collection and a collection of industrial objects.

Spaces for classes and seminars to put into practice the investigative, academic and multidisciplinary vocation of the institution to prepare new generations to… create a better world. To be open to researchers and young students who would like to develop interdisciplinary projects in which merge architecture, the new technologies and the challenges of the future.

“One has to ask oneself what diferentiates a city that depends on the car from one that doesn’t. One has to ask oneself what lessons we learn from a dense, traditional city, with quality of life and a controlled energy consumption, if we compare it with American cities that colonize a lot of space, that depend on the car and that waste energy.”

“Everything is related to the way of creating energy, to achieve that buildings function better, that their users feel better inside them, living in a healtier way, and all of this without leading to a significantly higher bill on the way.”

Norman Foster in an interview with La Vanguardia

Foster describes Madrid as a dense city with relatively few skyscrapers where you are not dependent on a car. [Which is true if you are very well off and can live in a posh neighbourhood such as Chamberí in the center; though the air-quality in all of Madrid is often below of what EU standards consider “healthy”. Maybe his foundation will help to change that…]

SOURCE: Norman Foster Foundation; Llàtzer Moix, La Vanguardia, May 27, 2017, pp. 34-36 [printed edition]