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”.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón at the Seattle Public Library

Carlo Ruiz Zafon the Spanish author of the Shadow of the Wind and the Angel’s Game was at the Seattle Public Library on Friday June 26th. Zafón, for those who don’t know, is the largest selling author in Spanish history after Cervantes. He is a world wide phenomenon and auditorium was packed and the line for the book signing was huge. As with best sellers in literary circles there is always a little stand-offishness. During the moderated talk you got the sense that Zafón has heard the criticisms, but isn’t that concerned about them. He writes what he writes and it works for him. Having read Shadow of the Wind, I wouldn’t call him high literature, but he writes well and the first 350 pages are really good. And the idea of a library of forgotten books, where the last remaining copy of a book goes to reside is magical.It is just too bad he couldn’t quite finish it convincingly. Of course, having his sales must help.

He talked of the books he likes, which is a wide range of 19th century novelists such as Dickens and Tolstoy, but also modern books, and histories and anything else that he is interested in. His approach to translation in English is interesting and sounds like a lot of work. Since he is fluent in English he has the luxury of working with the translator and almost rewriting the book in English, which makes, not some much for an authentic translation, but one that is true to the author’s wishes.

He is interesting talker and given a question can go on for five minutes without stopping. And I think what sets him apart from the really pointless beach reads that hit the best seller lists is that he is genuinely interested in literature and even if his works are not the best works in Spanish, they do help install an interest in reading in the reader.