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: Barcino prize 2017 to Pérez-Reverte

(c) El Punt Avui newspaper, Nov. 7, 2017

On November 6, 2017, the first day of the “Barcelona Novel·la Històrica” [BCN historical novel] literature festival, organized by the Barcelona Institute of Culture, Arturo Pérez-Reverte was awarded this year’s Barcino prize in recognition for his many contributions to the genre of historical fiction.

The jury pointed out that Pérez-Reverte has “combined during many years major and minor histories, accurately documented, a pessimist and Galdosian view of the past that already in its own right has been labeled as Revertian, and an obsession for the language, that he has always adapted” whenever the context required it. The jury also said that he fulfilled the premises that “a historical novel has got to entertain, but also help us to understand an epoch. That is the mission of the writer who flees the traps, avoids common places and who constructs narrative artefacts with which he achieves that the past sheds light onto the present.”

Pérez-Reverte’s first historical novel was El húsar [The hussar] in 1986. And then came a lot more…

Available in English are (at least):

The Flanders Panel

The Seville Communion

Captain Alatriste

The Club Dumas

Purity of Blood

The Siege

He also wrote two non-fiction novels, narrative chronicles of two moments of historic relevance: Cabo Trafalgar and Un día de cólera [A day of anger], on May 2, 1808 in Madrid.

This blogger really liked The Seville Communion, though he doesn’t like Pérez-Reverte as a person who seems quite arrogant.

Pérez-Reverte is quite prolific, so there are older posts on Falcó (2016), Guerreros Urbanos (2016), Hombres buenos (2015), Perros e hijos de perras (2014), El francotirador paciente (2013), and El tango de la guardia vieja (2012).

SOURCE: “Cultura/s”, La Vanguardia, Nov. 4, 2017, p. 5 [printed edition]; El Punt Avui (photo); (English titles)

Snippet: Peixoto’s “Imperfect Path”


José Luís Peixoto, O Caminho Imperfeito [The imperfect path], 2017, 192 p.

summarized from a literary blog (source):

After Dentro do Segredo [Inside the secret], in which he presented North Korea from the inside, José Luís Peixoto now offers us a view of one of the common-place exotic destinations: Thailand.  O Caminho Imperfeito is the result of a journey by the author and the illustrator Hugo Makarov. Their itinerary is the guiding thread and they stress the lesser known aspects (culture, religion, geography) by narrating experiences of this and earlier visits. … discovering the darkest side of this popular holiday destination. It is also a reflection on the brutal turism industry. José Luís Peixoto is a tourist who observes other tourists, and in this game of observation, he sees the reflection of himself as a visitor and an inevitable consumer.

Summary: «We are here, the path is also a place.» Between Bangkok and Las Vegas, José Luís Peixoto returns to non-fiction, with a surprising book, full of  layers, unexpected relations, traveling from the most intimate story to very remote and exuberant descriptions. O Caminho Imperfeito is in itself a long journey to the common places of tourism, exploring lesser-known aspects of its culture, society, history, religion, among many others. A sinister discovery of several mail orders containg body parts in a Bangkok post office leads, as an unforeseen consequence, to the wandering turning into a demand. All the episodes of this excentric investigation make up O Caminho Imperfeito and, at the same time, they constitute a search of meaning of our own journeys, of writing and of life. 

On the author: José Luís Peixoto (Galveias, 1974) is one of the most outstanding authors of contemporary Portuguese literature. His fictional and poetic work has been published in dozens of anthologies, translated to a vast number of languages and studied in different national and foreign universities.

2001: Prémio Literário José Saramago for the novel Nenhum Olhar [No look].

2007: Prémio Cálamo Otra Mirada for Cemitério de Pianos [The Piano Cemetery] for the best foreign novel published in Spain.

Libro d’Europa prize in Italy for Livro [Book] as best European novel published the year before.

In poetry, Prémio Daniel Faria for Papéis [Roles], and the prize of the Portuguese Writers Association for A Criança em Ruínas [A Child in Ruins].

2012: Dentro do Segredo – Uma Viagem na Coreia do Norte [Inside the secret – a journey to North Korea].

2014: Galveias, a novel.

2015: Em Teu Ventre [In your womb].

His work has been translated into more than 20 languages. offers in English: The Piano Cemetery, Antidote, The Implacable Order of Things, and A Child in Ruins.


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: “The Heretic” by Miguel Delibes

Image of The Heretic by Miguel Delibes

Miguel Delibes, El hereje [The Heretic], 1998 [2006, translation; summary]

A review by Samantha Schnee can be found here; the Wikipedia has got an article on Miguel Delibes.

It’s one of the favorite Spanish novels (and writers) ever of this blogger, and the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is a good day to remember the book.

Other protestants in fiction can be found in this article by The Guardian.

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]