Cuentos para el andén Number 7 Out Now

Cuntos para el andén, the free magazine of short stories from Spain is out with its newest edition. It includes a couple of pieces of short fiction from Juan Jacinto Muñoz Rengel. I’ve been interested in reading something of his ever since I read La familia del aire a few weeks ago. He uses the fantastic in his writing. Also there is one from Francisco Umbral who I don’t know, but have heard his name a few times.

New Words Without Borders: Writing from the Indian Ocean – Plus Etgar Keret

The May issue of Words Without Borders is out now, featuring writing from the Indian Ocean. It also has a story fro perennial favorite, Etgar Keret.

This month we spotlight writing from the islands of Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar, and Mayotte.  Francophone writing in the region dates back to the eighteenth century; the coexistence of French with the area’s other languages (Creole, Malagasy, Arabic, and Hindi), and its relationship to French colonialism, inflect writers’ thematic, stylistic, and syntactic choices.  See how J. William Cally, Ananda Devi, Nassuf Djailani, Michel Ducasse, Boris Gamaleya, Alain Gordon-Gentil, Carpanin Marimoutou and Françoise Vergès, Esther Nirina, Barlen Pyamootoo, Jean-Luc Raharimanana, and Umar Timol imaginatively engage with this complex heritage. And guest editor Francoise Lionnet provides an illuminating introduction. Elsewhere, Mauritian writer Nathacha Appanah joins Etgar Keret and Wojciech Jagielski in writing from cities not their own. And we deliver the third installment of Sakumi Tamaya’s “The Hole in the Garden.”
By Françoise Lionnet
Francophone writing in the Mascarene region dates back to the eighteenth century. more>>>

Ludwig and I Kill Hitler for No Particular Reason

By Etgar Keret       
Translated from Hebrew by Miriam Shlesinger
“Adolf, it’s you, I didn’t recognize you at first without the ridiculous mustache.” more>>>

Is The Center of Spanish Language Publishing Returning to Latin America?

El Pais had an article recently about La Feria del LIbro de Buenos Aires and a group of Latin American authors who gave their thoughts on where the power base of Spanish publishing is. Historically it has gone back and forth. While Spain was under Franco Latin America was the publishing center. When Spain became a democracy and Latin America had its own problems the center of publishing moved to Spain. Now the question is, is it about to change? Many of the authors consulted hoped it would, pointing out it is silly that to get books published they have to go to Spain, and that if they only publish in their home country their book probably won’t leave their home country. Ebooks, of course, were touted as one of the solutions but it is uncertain if that is going to be as liberating as might be hoped for. Given that Spain refused to put in a large presence in the book fair do to a squabble with Argentina, things are certain to change.

Vale, no hay un nuevo Gabriel García Márquez en Latinoamérica. Ni “rayuelas”, ni “conversaciones en la catedral”. No hay millones de personas en el mundo esperando a que salga el último libro de la porteña Claudia Piñeiro, o de su compatriota Marcelo Cohen, premio de la Crítica en Argentina por su novela Balada. La gente no abarrota las salas donde habla la mexicana Guadalupe Nettel, ni se detiene el tráfico cuando cruza un semáforo con su mochila al hombro el chileno Alejandro Zambra o el colombiano Tomás González. Y sin embargo, a todos ellos les va bien dentro y, a veces, fuera de sus países. La Feria del Libro de Buenos Aires también goza de excelente salud: desde el 19 de abril y hasta el 7 de mayo se espera la asistencia de 1.250.000 personas que pagarán el equivalente a 4,5 euros por entrar en un recinto casi tan grande como cinco campos de fútbol lleno de libros. Los cinco novelistas se dieron cita el viernes en la Feria para hablar ante una audiencia de unas 200 personas no sobre sus propios libros, sino de sus experiencias como lectores. Muy pronto surgió la cuestión de España: ¿Por qué se depende tanto de las editoriales españolas para encontrar a los buenos autores de Latinoamérica? ¿Por qué siguen llegando los libros de otros idiomas traducidos al español de España?

Chapter from New Enrique Vila-Matas Book Aire de Dylan

El Pais post a chapter from the newest Enrique Vila-Matas book a few weeks ago. I’ve been a little late on getting it up, but you can read it here. The book came out last week (3/14). Here is a brief overview:

Uno de los mayores fracasos puede ser fracasar en el empeño de fracasar. Otro podría ser el vivir pareciéndose a alguien, imitándolo y propiciando la impostura. Con esta idea comienza Enrique Vila-Matas su nueva novela Aire de Dylan (Seix Barral). Una obra que se publicará el 14 de marzo pero cuyo primer capítulo avanza hoy EL PAÍS en exclusiva.En ella, el joven Vilnius, que explota su parecido con el cantautor estadounidense, asiste a un congreso literario sobre el fracaso, mientras cree que su difunto padre le empieza a traspasar sus recuerdos.

El anonimato, la máscara, la impostura, la búsqueda y sus alrededores están presentes en Aire de Dylan. El joven Vilnius protagoniza estas páginas en las que el escritor barcelonés despliega sus mejores armas y elenco literarios con humor, ironía o sarcasmo pero siempre desde el conocimiento del mundo de la creación literaria. A partir de ahí, la novela se va transformando en un homenaje al mundo del teatro y una crítica al posmodernismo.

March 2012 Words Without Borders: The Mexican Drug War

The new Words Without Borders is out now. It is an issue I’ve been looking forward to for sometime, especially since I donated to the Kick Starter campaign. The issue is a mix of non-fiction and fiction all addressing the drug war. I’ve read Volpi before and he can be insightful. I’m looking forward to reading the Juan Villoro. I’ve seen his name several times in the collection of reporting that was recently published in by Anagrama.

Guest Editor Carmen Boullosa

What is it like to grow up in a country where the only safe place you can gather with friends is in your own home? How do you raise a family when going to the supermarket is fraught with the danger of being kidnapped?  This is the situation in Mexico, where the drug wars have transformed the country into a living hell. Guest editor Carmen Boullosa has assembled compelling essays, interviews, fiction, and poetry from Mexican writers on the impact of this bloody conflict. In their eyewitness reports, Luis Felipe Fabre, Rafael Perez Gay, Yuri Herrera, Rafael Lemus, Fabrizio Mejia Madrid, Hector de Mauleon, Magali Tercero, Jorge Volpi, and Juan Villoro document the crisis and demand the world’s attention.

From the other side of the world, we present poetry commemorating last year’s Japanese earthquake, and launch a new serial about an unexpected pig.

Etgar Keret Story at Guernica

Guernica has a good short story from Etgar Keret. It has fun with the idea of the writer and is one of his stories that touches more directly on the troubles. The story is from his forthcoming book to be published in April, I believe.

“Tell me a story,” the bearded man sitting on my living-room sofa commands. The situation, I must admit, is anything but pleasant. I’m someone who writes stories, not someone who tells them. And even that isn’t something I do on demand. The last time anyone asked me to tell him a story, it was my son. That was a year ago. I told him something about a fairy and a ferret—I don’t even remember what exactly—and within two minutes he was fast asleep. But here the situation is fundamentally different. Because my son doesn’t have a beard, or a pistol. Because my son asked for the story nicely, and this man is simply trying to rob me of it.

The New Boom: Latin American Non-Fiction?

I actually don’t like terms like the Boom, but El Pais had an interesting conversation about a new collection coming out from Alfagrara: Antología de crónica latinoamericana actual. (You can read an excerpt here – the 42 page introduction) It is an anthology of stories from newspapers and magazines that focus on the way journalistic writing has developed as its own art form among Spanish speaking journalists. I know there have been many excellent journalists in the past so I don’t want to over state the boom idea. But the focus on journalistic narrative, apparently, has undergone a resurgence of interest. The name English speakers might recognize is Alejandro Zambra. El Pais explains the phenomenon:

1. De acuerdo,  la palabra boom huele. ¿Lo dejamos en “explosión controlada de la crónica latinoamericana”? Lo dejamos. Pero también diremos que en los últimos años han proliferado en América Latina las revistas, las colecciones, los talleres y hasta los premios dedicados a la crónica. Además, ahora se publican en España dos amplias selecciones dedicadas a ese género híbrido que llaman periodismo narrativo. Hoy mismo llega a las librerías Antología de crónica latinoamericana actual (Alfaguara), coordinada por Darío Jaramillo Agudelo. El 1 de marzo lo hará Mejor que ficción. Crónicas ejemplares (Anagrama), a cargo de Jorge Carrión. El próximo sábado Babelia -que ya dedicó una portada al género– se ocupará de ambos libros y del fenómeno que representan. Hoy Papeles Perdidos ofrece dos crónicas incluidas en la selección de Jaramillo: El sabor de la muerte, del mexicano Juan Villoro, y Bob Dylan en el Auditorium Theater, del dominicano Frank Báez.

Cuentos para el andén #3 Out Now

Cuentos para el andén #3 is out now. I didn’t find it as interesting as the first two. The stories in the second one were quite good. At least with this issue there is a short story form Max Aub, an author who I have read only in novel form. I can’t say I was knocked out by his story, but it was worth reading nonetheless.

¿POR qué me juzgan? ¿Con qué derecho? Todos ustedes son funcionarios, luego elévenme un monumento; y que acabe mi vida con la gloria que merezco.

Jueces son, luego funcionarios, dependientes de superiores; el ministro en el altar mayor, el subsecretario a la derecha y el oficial mayor a la izquierda. No juego con las palabras. Jamás jugué. Si lo hice, no me acuerdo. Lo maté por viejo. No él, yo.

Félix J. Palma a Profile from El Cultural

El Cultural has a profile of Félix J. Palma, an author who among other things has had a New York Times best seller. I haven’t read him yet (I have a collection of his short stories La menor espectacular del mundo), but the appearance on the best seller list makes me a little nervous. Given the success of Carlos Ruis Zafón, it doesn’t bode well for the quality of his work, or to put it another way, the best seller list doesn’t tend to reward literary fiction these days. Despite his appearance on the list I haven’t heard much about him in the American press.

Esta voz narrativa que proporciona al lector recién llegado las pistas necesarias para que no se pierda, es la misma que le escamotea información, que salta en el tiempo y el espacio según se le antoje -y se regodea por ello-. “Es un homenaje al narrador victoriano. Es como un prestidigitador, un ilusionista”. En definitiva, una herramienta eficaz para hilvanar una trama compleja poblada de paradojas temporales y universos paralelos que se desarrolla a lo largo de 744 páginas. Pero el componente fantástico es casi una excusa para abordar el tema más universal de todos: una historia de amor. “Los viajes en el tiempo o la visita de seres del espacio quedan en un segundo plano”.

El estigma de las etiquetas

Palma abraza la etiqueta “bestseller” de buen grado pero con ciertos reparos: “Mi literatura es eminentemente lúdica, apuesto por la trama y la peripecia, pero a diferencia de muchos autores de bestsellers, intento que la prosa tenga valor en sí misma, que no sea una mera herramienta de transmisión del relato”. El espejo en el que se mira son, además de Wells o Verne, contemporáneos de éstos como Dumas, Salgari o Stevenson. “Todos ellos practicaron una literatura popular culta. Se dirigían a un nuevo tipo de lector burgués que demandaba aventuras, pero no le tomaban por tonto. En definitiva, hay dos tipos de escritores: los que hacen pensar y los que hacen soñar. Yo me considero dentro del segundo grupo”.

Jorge Volpi Wins the Planeta-Casa de América

Jorge Volpi has won the Planeta-Casa de América for his book La tejedora de sombras. It is about the psychiatrist Christiana Morgan. Not sure when it will come out.

“La historia de Christiana Morgan me fascinó por ser una mujer adelantada a su tiempo, sumida en una búsqueda continua de la libertad absoluta y el amor por su amante, el también psicoanalista Henry Murray. Una búsqueda que chocaba con lo tradicional de su tiempo y ponía en peligro su integridad y su vida”. Así describe Jorge Volpi La tejedora de sombras, la novela con la cual ha ganado hoy el V Premio Iberoamericano Planeta-Casa de América de Narrativa. Una historia de amor atormentada premiada justo en el día de san Valentín.

Blogs & Websites Covering the Spanish Book Markets

Publishing Perspectives has and article about the list of literary sites and blogs the Spanish ministry of culture has published. It is a little lacking in  some areas, but it keep any one busy for some time.

Recently, the Ministry of Culture of Spain, through its Observatory (Observatorio del libro y la lectura), compiled a list of websites and blogs of note on books and the book industry. If you’d like to keep yourself informed on a daily basis but don’t speak Spanish, it’s worth using Google Translate to give yourself a flavor of what’s going on.

This is the short list, but you can check the long list too.

Short Story by Etgar Keret at Tin House

Tin House has a short story form Etgar Keret.

Every night, after she had finally left him, he’d fall asleep in a different spot: on the sofa, in an armchair in the living room, on the mat on the balcony like some homeless bum. Every morning, he made a point of going out for breakfast. Even prisoners get a daily walk in the yard, don’t they? At the café they always gave him a table set for two, and sat him across from an empty chair. Always. Even when the waiter specifically asked him whether he was alone. Other people would be sitting there in twos or threes, laughing or tasting each other’s food, or fighting over the bill, while Avichai sat by himself eating his Healthy Start—orange juice, muesli with honey, decaf double espresso with warm low-fat milk on the side. Of course it would have been nicer if someone had sat down across from him and laughed with him, if there had been someone to argue with over the bill and he’d have to struggle, to hand the money to the waitress saying, “Don’t take it from him! Mickey, stop. Just stop! This one’s on me.” But he didn’t really have anyone to do that with, and breakfast alone was ten times better than staying home.

Celebrating the 100th Birthday of Mexican Novelist Josefina Vicens

La Jornada has a piece on the Mexican writer Josefina Vicens on the occasion of her 100th birthday. She only wrote two novels and one short story, but her work was highly regarded by people such as Octavio Paz. She sounds interesting (and I like a little bit of obscurity). Her last book has been translated into English: False Years (Discoveries).

Desde la publicación de El libro vacío, la crítica la miró con beneplácito; en la segunda edición, la obra se publicó con una carta-prólogo de Octavio Paz, quien califica la obra de Vicens como una “verdadera novela”, que habla sobre la nada con un lenguaje “vivo y tierno”. Para Paz, la primera novela de Vicens destaca por la presentación del “hombre caminando siempre al borde del vacío, a la orilla de la gran boca de la insignificancia”. Con esta obra, se muestran las inquietudes autorales por el tema de la creación literaria, el conflicto de la “página en blanco” y la condición individualista del artista al que le angustia no tener nada que decir y que piensa en la primera frase para iniciar una novela.

Por su parte, Los años falsos plantea el tema del patriarcado mexicano, pues en la obra el hijo varón se convierte, a la muerte de su padre, del mismo nombre, en el proveedor económico y en el encargado de proporcionar el tradicional “respecto de varón” a su madre y hermanas. Se trata de una metamorfosis de hijo a padre, así como de un rito de asignación, pues el patriarca ausente le hereda no sólo la carga familiar, sino el trabajo, el grupo de amigos y, de forma extrema, la concubina. Aunque la mirada narrativa pone énfasis en las relaciones entre los géneros, en la obra destacan las alusiones a la política mexicana emergida de la postrevolución; a esa nueva época en la que la corrupción, la mentira y las influencias son privilegios de unos cuantos.

‘Three Messages’: Mexican stories of the fantastic – Reviewed in the Seattle Times

The Seattle Times has a a review of a new collection of Mexican short stories. I’m not sure I would seek it out or not since it sounds like genres I don’t read much, but since so little in the way of short stories makes it into English, it might be worth reading. I found the references to magical realism annoying. On the other hand that most of the stories have been written in the last 10 years is exciting. Too many anthologies seem to be the greatest hits of the greatest writers and don’t have anything new to say.

This anthology contains 34 stories; all but one of them were originally published after 2000, and most in the past two years. All were written by Mexican-born authors. All are short, and some are extremely short, lasting no more than three or four pages. They range in tone from delirious to grim, and exhibit various attitudes toward the marvelous intrusions into the mundane which they recount: embarrassed and regretful, slyly ambiguous, reluctantly accepting, prosaic. They occupy the memory stubbornly, insisting on their own eccentric logics, powered by the writers’ dark or shining visions, steered via authorial voices that can be disarmingly direct, cuttingly ornate, or deceptively quiet.

Borges’ Manual de zoología fantástica Reviewed at La Jornada

La Jornada has an all too brief review of a Borges curiosity, Manual de zoología fantástica (The Manual of the Fantastical Zoology). It is a mix of his writings about famous characters like the phoenix and those of his own invention. It sounds like an interesting mix.

El jardín zoológico borgiano es una recopilación extensa, variopinta, si bien ágil, de criaturas mitológicas y literarias que van desde centauros, arpías, ictiocentauros o centauros-tritones, unicornios o nagas, por mencionar a los más ampliamente difundidos que se presentan como auténticas especies fantásticas compuestas de numerosos individuos o bien seres únicos e irrepetibles, como Pegaso, Escila, Garuda, el Fénix, el Ave Rock, el Behemoth, el Cancerbero, el Kraken, al lado de entidades tan escurridizas y sutiles como los seres térmicos, crocotas y leucocrocotas, animales de los espejos, animales metafísicos o animales esféricos. Varias de las criaturas soñadas por Kafka asoman sus confusas y tímidas cabezas en estas páginas, así como las cantadas por otros grandes literatos como C. S. Lewis, Plinio, Dante, Ariosto, fray Luis de León y algunos poetas y sabios indios, chinos y musulmanes. Un verdadero deleite deparan al lector estas descripciones, amenizadas con el inimitable estilo de Borges, cazador de aporías, laberintos e hipálages, ilustrados con citas de grandes autores que, cuando no se ofrecen en el original castellano, que es en contados casos, se proponen en traducciones escogidas, selectas, salidas no pocas veces de la pluma del mismísimo Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), el hombre de letras más brillante que produjo el siglo XX hispanoamericano y quizá hispánico en su conjunto.

Words Without Borders 2012 Graphic Novel Edition Out Now

The new Words Without Borders graphic novel edition is out now.

by Mazen Kerbaj

Letter to the Mother

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Because of you I fancied killing a hundred times.

Translated by Mazen Kerbaj and Ahmad Gharbieh

by Nawel Louerrad


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I’ve been wearing this tutu since I was a kid.

Translated by Canan Marasligil

by Héctor G. Oesterheld and Francisco Solano López

from “The Eternonaut,” Part II

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There are other survivors!

Translated by Erica Mena

by Li Kunwu and Philippe Ôtié

A Great Step Forward: Memoir of the Famine

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Even the roaches in the village are dying of hunger.

Translated by Edward Gauvin

by Jérôme Ruillier

from “Les Mohameds”

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I loved Renault like you’d love a mistress.

Translated by Edward Gauvin

by Krysztof Gawronkiewicz


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Our technology enables the resurrection of an incomplete body.

Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Javier Calvo Wins the Biblioteca Breve de novela Prize

Javier Calvo won the Biblioteca Breve de novela prize for his book El jardín colgante, a provocative take on Spain’s Transition to democacy.

Escribió El jardín colgante en 2011. “Un año indescriptible y extraño; vi cosas que nunca había visto antes, como la plaza de Catalunya llena de gente llamando a la revolución, un fugaz despertar de la consciencia; la magia negra del capitalismo, con agencias de calificación expulsando a políticos de sus cargos… y todo con la sensación de que no había futuro, de que todo se había acabado”. A partir de ahí, se preguntó cómo se había llegado a tal situación de catástrofe y llegó a la conclusión de que el inicio estaba en 1977, cuando España despertaba a la democracia. Él no vivió esos días, pero ha leído y se ha documentado, sin exceso —“porque el exceso de documentación perjudica a la novela”— y desde el presente, se plantea si “aquello fue un sueño o lo es ahora, si entonces era realidad y ahora no”.

Open Letter Books Spring Summer Catalog Featuring Short Stories from Latin America, and Sergio Chejfec, Kristín Ómarsdóttir, Benjamin Stein

Open Letter has released its Spring Summer 2012 Catalog and there are some interesting books in it. But most exciting of them all are works from young Latin American writers. The only one I have read a fair amount of is Samanta Schweblin, who I like quite a bit. You can read the whole catalog here (pdf).

The Future Is Not Ours: New Latin American Fiction brings together twenty-three Latin American writers who were born between 1970 and 1980. The anthology offers an exciting overview of contemporarySpanish-language literature and introduces a generationof writers who came of age in the time of military dictatorships, witnessed the fall of theBerlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, the birth of the Internet, the murders of Ciudad Juárez,Mexico, and the September 11th attacks in New York City.The anthology features: Oliverio Coelho, Federico Falco, and Samanta Schweblin (Argentina);Giovanna Rivero (Bolivia); Santiago Nazarian (Brazil); Juan Gabriel Vásquez and AntonioUngar (Colombia); Ena Lucía Portela (Cuba); Lina Meruane, Andrea Jeftanovic, and AlejandroZambra (Chile); Ronald Flores (Guatemala); Tryno Maldonado and Antonio Ortuño (México);María del Carmen Pérez Cuadra (Nicaragua); Carlos Wynter Melo (Panama); Daniel Alarcónand Santiago Roncagliolo (Peru); Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro (Puerto Rico); Ariadna Vásquez (DominicanRepublic); Ignacio Alcuri and Inés Bortagaray (Uruguay); and Slavko Zupcic (Venezuela).

Mexican Drug War Issues from Words Without Borders Update

I’ve been following the progress of the Words Without Borders fund drive on their Mexican Drug War Issue. They released some information about some of the stories. Although, given their current funding to goal ratio I’m not sure they are going to make it.

Hi Everyone,

Just got word from our editorial team that some of the translations for the Mexican Drug War Issue have come in so I’m able to tell you a bit more about what’s in the issue. Work featured will include extracts from Magali Tercero’s reporting on living under “drugtatorship”, “Notes on the Violence in Sinaloa, Mexico,” Rafael Perez Gay’s short story “Road to Juarez,”  in which a man’s senile father claims to have been an undercover federal agent infiltrating a drug cartel, Fabrizio Mejia Madrid’s nonfiction piece, “The Mystery of the Parakeet, the Rooster, and the Goat,”  based on  statements made by drug lord Ricardo ”El Valde” Valderrama, and Luis Felipe Fabre’s poem “Notes on a Theme of a Zombie Cataclysm.” Guest editor Carmen Boullosa is interviewed on how the drug war has impacted writers directly and also contributes a poem mourning all that Mexico has lost. Translations still to come include Hector de Mauleon, Yuri Herrera, Rafael Lemus, and Juan Villoro.

There’s only 20 days left. Please help us spread the word.

The Guardian Reviews Purgatory by Tomás Eloy Martínez

Tomás Eloy Martínez’s last book Purgatory  has been published. “It sounds like another good book. The Guardian has the review:

A superb political reporter, Martínez perfected in his novels the blending of strict journalistic fact with the devices of fiction. He said that he had learned the craft when, in the late 60s, the exiled dictator Juan Domingo Perón summoned him to his Spanish estate to help him write his memoirs which, as the young journalist quickly realised, were largely fictitious. The result of the experience, published in the mid-80s, was The Perón Novel. It was followed a decade later by his masterpiece, Santa Evita, which García Márquez, usually reticent in his praise, said was “the novel I’ve always wanted to read”. The posthumous publication of Purgatory shows a writer at the height of his craft, and is a fitting conclusion to the work of one of Latin America’s most remarkable novelists.