November 2011 Words Without Borders Featuring Caribbean Spanish and French Language Writers

The November 2011 Words Without Borders featuring Caribbean Spanish and French language writers. The Spanish language writers come from Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The featured Spanish language writers are below.

This month we present literature from the Caribbean. Writers from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Martinique, and Puerto Rico contribute compelling portraits of their countries and societies. From sober reports on natural disasters and political oppression to antic depictions of sexuality run amok, the pieces collected here testify to the range and vitality of this region’s writers. Haiti’s Dany Laferrière reports from the rubble of the 2010 earthquake. In an excerpt from his Prix Goncourt-shortlisted novel, Lyonel Trouillot sends a young woman in search of her family history. Cuba’s Jorge Olivera Castillo brings a nightmare to life. His countryman Omar Pérez performs a lively regguetón. From Martinique, Suzanne Dracius rides with Amazons, while Johan Moya Ramis struggles with an unruly body part. Évelyne Trouillot gives voice to a madwoman on a turbulent journey. Puerto Rico’s Juan Flores presents a tap-dancing sage, while José María Lima speaks from the grave. In poetry from the Dominican Republic, Frank Baez paints a self-portrait, José Mármol communes with nature, and Aurora Arias comes full circle. We trust you’ll enjoy this island tour.

There is No Theorem (A Regguetón)
By Omar Pérez
Translated from Spanish by Kristin Dykstra
all things in moderation and the moderation addles. more>>>

The Other Day After the Rain
By Johan Moya Ramis
Translated from Spanish by David Iaconangelo
He throws the arm with the machete around my shoulders, the edge of the blade scant centimeters from my neck. more>>>

By Frank Baez
Translated from Spanish by Hoyt Rogers
The neighbors dream of shooting me. more>>>

Alive or Dead
By Jorge Olivera Castillo
Translated from Spanish by Amanda Hopkinson
One of the dogs goes for him as if there were nothing between  them to block its way. more>>>

Deus ex Machina
By José Mármol
Translated from Spanish by Erica Mena
Throw the dice, Lord, your turn has inevitably come. more>>>

Invention of the Day
By José Mármol
Translated from Spanish by Erica Mena
thursday the man who invented death with his blood rested on a rock. more>>>

The Crane
By Juan Carlos Flores
Translated from Spanish by Kristin Dykstra
somewhat drunk he tap dances over the wet cobblestones more>>>

From the Grave of My Grave
By José María Lima
Translated from Spanish by Erica Mena
stalker-yesterday says slowly / my death has not begun more>>>

Bird’s Nest
By Aurora Arias
Translated from Spanish by Erica Mena
the honied bodies of whores / hold all the men. more>>>

The Best Spanish Language Blogs – and Where are the Ones By Women?

El Cultural has a list of the best literary blogs in Spanish. Some of them I know of and read with some frequency, others not so much but they all look good. Moleskine Literario is great for finding articles about the goings on in the Spanish language press. I’ve read La Nave de Los Locos, but I’m undecided as yet. MICRORRÉPLICAS is good, although I don’t read it enough, as is Antonio Muñoz Molina’s. I’m looking forward to reading some of these others. I would add El Sindeome Chejov  from the Spanish writer  Miguel Angel Munoz to the list. He has some great interviews on his site. And I like Sergi Bellver’s blog too.

There is one glaring deficiency to the site as Liburauk points out. There isn’t a single blog by a woman listed. It is a huge omission, one that seems rather typical. Liburauk has a good rant about the problem and a link to a counter list at Escritoras that corrects the omission. It all reminds me of the series of books listed in Letra Libres article Spain in a 100 Books, that had hardly any women in it. It prompted Laura Freixas to create a counter list of women authors. (You can see my notes on it here). The same happened in the Granta youngsters in Spanish which had about 22% women, which seems a little low.

Missing (una investigacion) by Alberto Fuguet – A Review

Missing (una investigacion) /Missing (My Uncle’s Story) (Spanish Edition)
Alberto Fuguet
Alfaguara, 2010 pg 386

Alberto Fuguet’s Missing (una investigacion) is one of the most interesting books I’ve read for sometime. In it Fuguet continues his explorations of modern life, the interchange of culture between Latin America and the United States, and the mixing of genres that have marked books like Shorts, and applies those elements to his own family, examining what made his Uncle Carlos disappear, to go missing. More than an immigrant narrative, more than a critique of American society, Missing is the story of a man never quite lives the American dream, but lives a life that is all too American.

Carlos Fuguet is one of three sons of a Chilean patriarch who moves the family to the United States in the early 1960s after his fortunes change and he his forced to drive a taxi. The father is a tough and proud man and the thought of driving a taxi is impossible to accept. He moves the family to the US even though that means moving his teenage boys to a country where they don’t speak much English. Carlos, who had always been the good student, the one expected to succeed, soon finds himself adrift. After high school he works as a busy boy in a hotel near LA’s airport and living in a dive in Hollywood since he can’t stand his parents. It is a lonely experience and in one of the more moving episodes he breaks down crying on the Santa Monica pier. A young American sailor comforts him and Carlos says at that moment he finally lost his fear, the fear that had come form being a stranger and alone. Yet that loneliness and living on the margin in dives will follow him throughout his life. Even in the early chapters it is obvious that Carlos finds the need to escape, to be away from his family, especially his father, at all costs.

To understand Carlos, one has to know more about his father. He is a cold man who holds his family at a distance. In a telling moment early on, when Alerto is relating his experiences with the man his grandfather says, “No me tratas de tu. No Soy tu padre…” (Don’t call me by you (familiar form), I’m not your father…). For a Spanish speaker it points to a grandfather who is cold, distant. There will be no grandfatherly indulgences. That coldness is only magnified when describing the relationship between the father and the sons. Carlos can never forgive him, nor his mother who even if she didn’t overtly side with him, always stayed with him and never defended Carlos. Later, when the Carlos’s father is dying and Carlos calls, his father says, “you are a disappointment, we never want to talk to you.” Even on his death bed the father refuses to forgive, and to make he worse he uses the we as if the rest of the family agreed with him. But it is not surprising as he is the father who said when Carlos wanted to buy a car,

tu no, no necesitas un auto,
todos necesitan un auto en los angeles, le dije,
tu no, no necesitas ir a ninuna parte,
aqui esta tu familia
quiero otras cosas que mi familia, le dije.
ah, esos amigos gringos tyuos, me dijo,
te van a arruinar

you don’t need a car,
everyone needs a car in los angeles, i told him,
you don’t need a car to go anywhere,
here is you family
i want other things than my family, i said.
ah, your gringo friends, he said,
they are going to ruin you

The argument is a typical father son argument, and shows a father that despite the successes he would have in the US, he never could see him self as an American. But the family problems run deeper than arguments between first and second generation. In an even stranger episode Alberto notes that Carlos is the second Carlos, the first one was a baby that didn’t live past 1 year. When Carlos was born he was named just like the first. One has the sense that Carlos could never quite live up to what the you Carlos might have.

From such beginnings, Carlos lives a life that is one series of disappointments. When he is 21 he marries a 17 year old and unsurprisingly the marriage lasts less than a year. Latter he marries a rich woman he meets in New Port Beach and while the relationship works, he begins to envy her money. In a fit of frustration he embezzles from a religious community so that he can take her to Vegas. He’s caught and goes to jail for the first of two stints in prison. It is from then on that he seems to live at the margins of American life, if not on the run from the police, then trying to survive the best he can. It is not an easy life and although there are moments of happiness and companionship, he lives alone moving from place to place. For awhile it seems to he has found a place in hotel management, but even that dissipates. At times he is the epitome of Americanness, pulling himself up from his bootstraps, becoming a hotel manager even though he had done two terms in jail for theft. But something always goes wrong and he is left on the margins of society. He is just unable to win.

Towards the end of the book, Alberto asks himself, for all the years he’s worked why doesn’t he have anything to show for it? After having a successful run with a hotel chain turing around troubled hotels he ends up in a run down hotel in Vegas living in a room that is filled with old fast food containers. The irony is he has been living one of the dark sides of the American dream, frittering away his money on silly things, always short on money. In one of the more telling episodes, during the 1980’s Carlos buys an expensive VCR for his father. It is an expensive piece of equipment that makes his father angry. Carlos had only good intentions in giving the VCR, but it shows complete emersion in consumer culture. Missing is not only the troubled story of a rootless immigrant, it is destructive longing for the American dream that is always one purchase away.

Missing, true to its investigative nature, is not a complete story, but one with lacuna and unanswered questions. Alberto uses different genres to approach the unanswerable from as many directions as possible. The bulk of the book is a long poem in Carlos’s voice which lets you see the story as Carlos sees it (and Alberto writes it down). He also includes personal memory, a third person history of his journey to his grandfather’s house, and the abortive first interviews he made with Carlos in a Denver Denny’s. The multiple points of view allow Alberto to comment of Carlos’s story and reveal a fuller picture of Carlos. Much of the family hatred for Carlos’s father comes from these scenes and it makes Carlos a more sympathetic character, one you can almost understand. What also comes is Alberto’s confusion, disappointment and melancholy as he learns Carlos’s life. For Alberto, Carlos had always been the cool uncle, the one who went his own way and disappeared. But that disappearing act was not as glamourous as it seemed from a distance.

One of Alberto’s skills as a writer is to use the detritus of everyday life in his works without it seeming cloying. He has always used product names in his books, but not heavy handedly like a Steven King. They are just something one comes across and occasionally mark certain societal transitions:

Estaba en Las Vegas, en contacto con el mundo, con una direccion que aparecia en Google Earth.

He was em Las Vegas, in contact with the world, with a an address that appeared in Google Earth.

In Missing his use of  this adds to the already strong element of Americanness. Not only does Carlos’s story resonate as an American story, but Alberto shows himself to be a keen observer of American life, something only someone who has lived in a country can show. It is that mix of observation and detail in telling Carlos’s story that makes the book an American story.

Alberto Fuguet considers this his most American book and he is right. Carlos is the other side of America, the one that is free to try and try again, yet it is a futile effort. It is the more than the story of an immigrant, but a story of the other America that lives at the edges of the American Dream.

You can read an excerpt of the book at the translator’s site.

Antonio Muñoz Molina Interview on 1001 Noches (Spanish Only)

Antonio Muñoz Molina was on 1001 Noches a month or two ago. He talks about his last book, La noche de los tiempos, a Spanish poet, his view of Spanish, and other things. It is a lengthy interview. It is also one of the strangest programs I’ve ever seen. They have a live piano player on stage and playing in the background. Then a couple of clowns give him a present after telling jokes. And 20 minutes in they cut to an interview with a different person, then but back. However, if you are interested in his work the video is worthwhile (and Canal Sur’s Flash player makes it easy to skip over uninteresting sections).

Portions of Granta Spanish Translation Online

Granta has placed writing from its best Spanish Language writers online (via New Pages). This is a good chance to sample some of the edition for free.

From the print edition, free to read online:


Short Story from Raúl Quinto

El sindrome chejov has a short story, Idoteca,  from Raul Quinto. I leave it to you to give an opinion about the story.

About the book:

Idioteca no es un libro de cuentos ni tampoco una colección de ensayos, ni siquiera una antología de largos poemas en prosa. No es nada de eso, aunque pudiera serlo todo. Idioteca es una búsqueda de respuestas donde al final acabamos encontrando interrogantes aún mayores. En sus páginas nos acercamos a misterios cómo cuál fue el verdadero origen del arte de la pintura o qué es lo que ocultan las grandes obras maestras bajo su superficie, se propone mirar un capítulo del Coyote y el Correcaminos o un partida de póker y averiguar qué es lo que esconden, que a lo mejor la realidad y el arte son una red invisible que nos teje y nos desteje sutilmente. En Idioteca el cine gore tiende su mano a la poesía de Rilke y la filosofía de Parménides justifica la pasión por el fútbol, aquí Goya y Sonic Youth comparten paleta, Yves Klein o Schumann desnudan sus rarezas, el arte se confunde con su sombra y amanece más lento. Es un libro distinto, un museo alucinado, un paseo por los sótanos paralelos de la historia de la cultura. Como muestra: la importancia de un limón.

The first paragraph:

Los problemas de la representación. Los límites del ojo y sus circuitos. Aquello a lo que llamamos realidad. Son cosas sobre las que se ha debatido en estas páginas largo y tendido, aunque todo indica que no hemos llegado a ninguna conclusión. Tampoco creo que lo vayamos a hacer ahora, la verdad. Pero sigamos abriendo puertas y afilando escalpelos, simplemente por el placer inigualable de diseccionar el cadáver de un animal imposible. Al fin y al cabo para eso hemos venido.

Mario Vargas Llosa on Roberto Bolaño – Video

Moleskin Literario tipped me off to this interview with Vargas Llosa talking about Bolaño. It is interesting to see his take on Bolaño who he likes quite a bit, especially the Savage Detectives and Nazi Literature in America. If you are a Bolaño afficinado you probably know everything he talks about. However, he said enough to get me over my reservations about Nazi Literature in America one of these days. The video is in Spanish with Italian subtitles.

Review of Matute’s Celebration in the Northwest at Imagined Icebergs

Imagined Icebergs has a review of  Ana Maria Matute’s Celebration in the Northwest. Since her work is more or less out of print it is good to see a review of her work. She won the Cervantes prize last year so she is getting some deserved reappraisal.

The most enjoyable thing about this book is Matute’s rather twisted but beautiful descriptions and comparisons. Here, for example, is part of protagonist Juan Medinao’s perception of his mother when he is a child: “The black beads of her rosary, like a caravan of ants on a business trip to her soul, looped over her wrist where her blood pulsed erratically.” Or, on first encountering a young priest: “As he watched him, Juan experienced a feeling similar to that which came over him before he ate a baby partridge.”

Novelist Soledad Puértolas Named Member of Real Academia Española

For a writer in the Spanish language to become a member of Real Academia Española is a big deal, one that doesn’t have an equivalent in English. The honor is given only to those whose work represents the best of the Spanish language. She is also only the 5th woman to be selected to be a member of the Real Academia. You can read the whole article at El Pais.

Cumplidos todos los protocolos, la autora de El bandido doblemente armado comenzó por un aviso: “Como novelista, soy una permanente aprendiz de la expresión escrita”. Y eso, el trato natural con la lengua es lo que, dijo, pone desde ahora al servicio de la institución que en enero pasado la eligió para ocupar el sillón g, vacante desde la muerte en 2008 del científico Antonio Colino. Vacantes, por cierto, siguen también los que ocuparon hasta este año Francisco Ayala y Miguel Delibes. Con la nueva académica son ahora cinco las mujeres -Ana María Matute, Carmen Iglesias, Margarita Salas e Inés Fernández-Ordóñez son las otras cuatro- con asiento en una casa que, fundada en 1713, hasta 1979 no abrió sus puertas a una mujer, la poeta Carmen Conde, a la que luego se uniría Elena Quiroga. Siete en casi trescientos años de historia.

Antes de entrar definitivamente en materia, Puértolas recordó a Colino y su propia vocación científica, abandonada a favor de la literatura: “La indagación literaria parte de la incertidumbre y el riesgo, y no permite conclusiones ni resoluciones”. Verdades que no son “hitos de un camino hacia un lugar preciso” sino “luces aisladas”.


Barnes and Nobel to Sell E-Books in Spanish

Publishing Perspectives is reporting that the ebook reader from Barnes and Nobel the Nook will now have access to Spanish Language titles.  This is the first reader in to have access to Spanish language books and looks promising. There is no information on how many books are available and apparently the Barnes and Nobel site has some trouble searching for the Spanish language titles, but if you were wanting access to Spanish language titles it is a good first step.

So, who sets the prices? “The pricing is determined by the publishers,” says Arancibia. “Many of them did research on how the US pricing market was, and they did ask us advice in some cases — what is the pricing between a hardcover and an e-book, or a paperback and an e-book, or a mass market paperback and an e-book. They clearly did their homework, they clearly looked at the US market very smartly. And in cases like Santillana, Random House [Mondadori], Grupo Urano, these are people who have US operations, so they know how pricing works here.”


The store has gotten off to a good start, but Arancibia acknowledges there is still room for growth and improvement. The NOOKbooks en español site is integrated into the English side of, for example, and while searches for author names turn up both Spanish and English titles, searches for Spanish terms don’t always pull up the right results. “The search I think was working very well, but we are definitely working on making it better,” says Arancibia.

She points out that the Spanish-language e-books are still vastly outnumbered by the English-language selection. “Searches always work on relevance, and it’s going to take a while to have enough of a mass of books in Spanish for all the pages to balance. We’re working on that. But again, we ​just started. There are tons of things that we’re planning on improving and doing better, but so far so good!”


Blogs in English About Spanish Language Literature

I’ve come across a couple new blogs that focus on Spanish language literature. One is caravana de recuerdos whose reviews often feature comparisons between the Spanish original and the English translation. It is usually quite informative (a sample after the jump. The other is Books on Spain, which as its name suggests, is about books from Spain. The author is well informed about publishing trends and is worth taking a look at.


From caravana de recuerdos writing about a Quevedo translation.

Even though I had some problems understanding La vida del Buscónin Spanish (the combination of Quevedo’s frequent puns and the characters’ criminal slang, while amusing, was truly difficult at times) and then felt swindled by Michael Alpert’s unreliable English translation of the work, I’d like to second Amateur Readerin acknowledging that the experience of reading the Buscón [TheSwindler] in any language is well worth the effort.  It’s just scandalously funny.  With that in mind, I’d like to wrap up this little miniseries on the Spanish classic with a look at some examples of its edgy humor.  In Book II, Chapter 3, for example, the swindler Pablos comes awfully close to committing blasphemy in telling  the story of how, against all expectations, a hermit cheats him and a soldier out of all their money in a game of cards: “Our cards were like the Messiah–since they never turned up, and we were always waiting for them” (83).*  In Book III, Chapter 3, the sacrilegious tone continues with the description of an impostor who earns a living by pretending to be a penitent in search of alms: “He wouldn’t raise his eyes to look at women”, Pablos writes, “but their skirts were another matter” (123).**  Elsewhere, Pablos flirts with the boundaries of good taste by describing how a “good conscience in a merchant is like virginity in a streetwalker since it’s peddled without being possessed” (85) and follows it up with a remark about how he’s sure that his mother–imprisoned by the Inquisition in Toledo–will “make sparks fly” at the stake (95)!***  Although Quevedo has been criticized by some modern scholars for the anti-Semitic and misogynistic elements in this novel, I think it’s important to remember that nobody gets off unscathed in Pablos’ crude vita of an unrepentant 17th century criminal ready to ship off for the New World.  Hilarious.

From Books on Spain

So these two books are both by the Spanish journalist, writer and diplomat Isabel Oyarzábal Smith de Palencia (Malaga, 1878 – Mexico City, 1974): I Must Have Liberty (1940) andSmouldering Freedom (1945). As you can probably tell from her unusual collection of surnames, Oyarzábal was half Spanish (with Basque roots) and half British (with Scottish roots); she was brought up bilingual in Spanish and English, which is why the two books I’ve just acquired, like several of her others, were written directly in English. I knew a little bit about Oyarzábal already, mostly because of her Anglo connection, which brings her into the orbit of my interest in Anglo-Spanish relations since the 19th century, but also because she began publishing during the 1900s and so is one of the women included in my database project Spain’s Women Intellectuals, 1890-1920but the books are throwing up all sorts of fascinating connections.


Interview Cesar Arias and Review of Newest Book El error at El Pais

El Pais has a long interview with Cesar Arias which is worth reading (and running through Google translate if need be). One of the things I found most interesting is that although he publishes something every year, his total lifetime out put is less than a 1000 pages. (via Moleskine Literario)

P. ¿Forma parte de su manera de escribir empezar contando una historia que después va abandonando?

R. Eso se me ha dado ahora, recientemente, porque he notado que muchas de mis novelas eran prácticamente una sola escena. Quise probar otras técnicas. Publiqué hace poco una novelita que se llama El divorcio, cuatro historias independientes metidas dentro de un marco. En este caso quise empezar con una historia y seguir con otra para ver qué pasaba, hacer una especie de díptico. Nunca son cosas deliberadas, voy improvisando las novelas a medida que las voy escribiendo, sin un plan.

P. ¿Arranca con la idea de una historia que quiere contar?

R. Sí, siempre empiezo con una idea. Tiene que ser una idea sugerente, no muy definida, de modo que me permita aventurarme en algo desconocido, pero siempre hay algo que me lleva a empezar. A veces es una idea más conceptual y a veces un lugar, los gimnasios, por ejemplo, o una ciudad.

P. Cuando empezó a escribir

El error, ¿existía el bandolero Pepe Dueñas?

R. No. La idea con la que empecé fue pequeñísima, la que está en las primeras líneas del libro, alguien que entra a la novela por una puerta que dice “error” y se justifica diciendo que era la única puerta que había. Esa fue una idea pequeñísima y tonta que se agotó en las tres primeras líneas, pero justamente es la clase de idea que me gusta porque me da completa libertad.

My idea of a writer:

P. Es curioso que mucha gente diga que es usted un autor prolífico, porque la verdad es que usted publica mucho, pero escribe poco. Lleva unos 60 libros publicados pero, en total, no serán más de 800 páginas.

R. Sí, a veces llego a publicar cuatro libros en un año, pero uno tiene 14 páginas, el otro 80 y alguno llega a las cien, o las pasa. Es mucho menos de lo que escribe cualquier periodista con una columna semanal. Yo escribo muy lento, media paginita por día. Escribo a mano. Y escribo en un café; todas las mañanas hago mi horita de escritura y tengo todo un fetichismo de lapiceras, cuadernos, papeles. Me gusta eso.



El Pais has a short review of Cesar Arias’ new book El Error. If you like Borgesian fiction, then this is a book for you, granted right now it is only in Spanish. Fortunately, he has many works translated into English. (Via Moleskine Literario)

(Emphasis mine)

La literatura como acto radical de fingimiento. Esto enseña siempre Aira, tal vez tras los pasos de Borges. Precisamente una palabra muy borgiana es el laberinto. Un concepto. Pues bien, en El erroralguien, el narrador, entra en un laberinto de historias hasta desembocar en su comienzo, pero ya sin su propia identidad. Destruido (u olvidado), el sujeto de la historia que se nos contaba se ha diluido en otras historias que ya nada tienen que ver ni con su voz ni con su existencia. Se ha impuesto la narración, la peripecia, distintos dramas, épicas, zozobras. La ficción pura. Empecemos por el principio, por definir un punto del que no estamos muy seguros que exista en esta novela. Un hombre (el narrador) y una mujer entran en el jardín de un escultor. Sabemos luego que dicho escultor mantiene una relación epistolar con una mujer que está presa (y condenada a cadena perpetua) por haber cometido un homicidio. Esta mujer nos conduce luego al mundo editorial. O a un mundo editorial muy sui géneris. De aquí saltamos a un relato épico en torno a la figura de un bandolero. A estas alturas el narrador primigenio ya está desaparecido. Y todo termina con Pepe Dueñas, el bandido legendario, y su mujer, Neblinosa. O mejor dicho, termina con el escultor del principio de la novela.

El error es una novela. Y la vez su alegoría. Tiene un mecanismo para que la novela funcione y a la vez es el mecanismo mismo de la ficción al desnudo. El humor, como en toda la literatura de Aira, juega en esta novela la función de contrapunto. El bandolero, Neblinosa, la presa que se cartea con el escultor, están descritos siempre al filo de la sonrisa inevitable. Pero la tristeza y la soledad y la incertidumbre que los afligen forman parte de su destino. Y este destino, Aira lo resuelve magistralmente con la descripción de una pesadumbre distantemente irónica. Y con algo de la impronta del maestro Macedonio Fernández. Al final, hemos disfrutado con una de las caras de la ficción, que como la vida tiene varias e ignotas. Nos enseña César Aira que la verdadera vida no está en otra parte. Está en la parte que miramos. Pero no vemos. Y en la vida que vivimos. O nos cuentan.

Some Spanish Language Authors You May Not Know and Are in English Including Javier Cercas

Jessica Crispin at PBS had a brief list of Spanish language authors (from the translator Anne McLean) you might have heard about, but should look into. It is a brief list but definitely worth looking at. One I’m looking at is Anatomy of a Moment by Javier Cercas. It was a huge hit in Spain and occasionally controversial. I was happy and surprised to learn it was going to be published in English. As a Spanish fried asked, are English speakers going to understand it? I’m not sure, but if you like history and different ways of writing it, the book will be worth the read.

“Anatomy of a Moment”
by Javier Cercas
(will be released February 2011 by Bloomsbury)

“Three of the writers I translate are actually favorites of Vargas Llosa’s,” McLean wrote me, including Javier Cercas. McLean has translated Cercas before, and this latest is “about the 1981 attempted coup in Spain, which won the National Prize for Narrative the day after the Nobel was arrived.”

16 Excerpts from Mario Vargas Llosa’s Newest Novel

El Pais has 16 excerpts selected by Mario Vargas Llosa’s from his newest novel about the Belgian Congo and Roger Casement who fought to end the horrendous condition. I’ll be curious to see the reviews. He certainly despised the system the Belgians instituted, but will that make an interesting novel? Man’s inhumanity to man is boundless. I hope he has something interesting to say about it. You can see the photos that accompany the excerpts here.

La Force Publique se enquistó, como un parásito en un organismo vivo, en la maraña de aldeas diseminadas en una región del tamaño de una Europa que iría desde España hasta las fronteras con Rusia para ser mantenida por esa comunidad africana que no entendía lo que le ocurría, salvo que la invasión que caía sobre ella era una plaga más depredadora que los cazadores de esclavos, las langostas, las hormigas rojas y los conjuros que traían el sueño de la muerte. Porque soldados y milicianos de la Fuerza Pública eran codiciosos, brutales e insaciables tratándose de comida, bebida, mujeres, animales, pieles, marfil y, en suma, de todo lo que pudiera ser robado, comido, bebido, vendido o fornicado.

Granta to Publish the Best Spanish Language Novelists Firday 10/1

El Pais is reporting that Granta en Espanol is going to publish its volume of the best Spanish Language Novelists on Friday 10/1/10. I’ve been waiting for this edition for sometime although I always find the best under issues a little contrived. At the same time I can’t wait to see if there is someone I haven’t heard of and, as the writer of the El Pais article said, play the game. Also of note is El Pais’ literary magazine Babelia is going to have its own coverage of the authors, so if you can’t or won’t buy the Granta, you’ll have a chance to read about the writers at El Pais.

La revista británica Granta elegirá mañana, por primera vez, a los 22 mejores escritores hispanohablantes menores de 35 años en cuyas manos, según ellos, estaría parte del futuro de las letras en castellano. Es un juego, una apuesta y una propuesta. Y como todos esos juegos de listas despierta interés y curiosidad. Por eso Babelia, desde este blog y ELPAÍ, hará una cobertura especial sobre esa selección, acorde a este soporte de la red: una pieza bio-bibliográfica de cada escritor con fotografías, vídeos, declaraciones al instante, enlaces con las mejores entrevistas, críticas o artículos de los autores, enlaces a chats que haya tenido este diario con algunos de ellos; e intentará conseguir algunos textos inéditos y un encuentro digital con varios de ellos para que ustedes pregunten lo que quieran.

New Adolfo Bioy Casares Book Apearing in Spain

For the Adolfo Bioy Casares completists Spain’s Páginas de Espuma is publishing a book of photos and a diary he kept during a 1960 trip to Brazil. I don’t know what the photos are like, but you can read the publisher’s press release.

La mirada de un viajero, Adolfo Bioy Casares en Brasil
El 6 de septiembre se realizará su lanzamiento mundial y se inagurará en Madrid una exposición que recoge las fotografías del libro

Madrid.- El próximo 6 de septiembre se realizará el lanzamiento mundial del libro Unos días en el Brasil (Diario de viaje), del escritor argentino Adolfo Bioy Casares, y con posfacio del editor y traductor Michel Lafon. El libro será publicado simultáneamente desde Argentina y España por las editoriales La Compañía y Páginas de Espuma, que suman de este modo un título más a su labor en común. Fruto de esta colaboración, en septiembre títulos como Lady Susan, de Jane Austen, o Nabokov y su Lolita, de Nina Berberova estarán disponibles en las libreráis españolas, mientras en las argentinas lo estarán El último minuto, de Andrés Neuman o Tres por cinco, de Luisa Valenzuela.

Las páginas prácticamente inéditas de Unos días en el Brasil (Diario de viaje) recogen el diario de un viaje en 1960, motivado por la invitación que Bioy Casares recibe de la organización del congreso del PEN Club en Brasil. Unos días en el Brasil recorre aquellos días de 1960 que Bioy estuvo entre las ciudades de Río de Janeiro, São Paulo y una incipiente Brasilia, de la que se celebra su 50º Aniversario como capital de Brasil. Testimonio de uno de los autores claves de la literatura en castellano del siglo XX, este diario se completa con una serie de fotos inéditas de este viaje. Coincidiendo con el lanzamiento, se celebrará una exposición titulada Basilia 1960. Fotografías inéditas de Adolfo Bioy Casares en la Galería Guayasamín de Casa de América en Madrid del lunes 6 de septiembre al domingo 19. La construcción de la ciudad comenzó en 1956, siendo Ludo Costa el principal urbanista y Oscar Niemeyer el principal arquitecto. En 1960, se convirtió oficialmente en la capital de Brasil. Junto con Putrajaya (la capital administrativa de Malasia) y Naypydaw (la nueva capital de Birmania) es una de las ciudades capitales de más reciente construcción en el mundo. El 8 de septiembre a las 20 horas será la presentación del libro en Casa de América. El acto contará con la presencia de Eduardo Berti, Juan Casamayor y muy especialmente del editor, traductor y ensayista francés Michel Lafon, que esos días concederá entrevistas. Según palabras recogidas en su posfacio, el diario tiene un cometido íntimo y personal del autor “para seguir transformando cualquier día de su vida en un viaje y una aventura, cualquier lugar del mundo en una isla encantada, donde todo se vuelve posible, e incluso deseable”. Lafon mantiene que Bioy ” no sabe por qué aceptó la invitación, no tiene nada que decirles a los otros invitados, rechaza las amistades obligadas y los ejercicios impuestos, odia la retórica vacía, no quiere hablar en público”. Aun así, Lafon acaba preguntándose: “Viajar para escribir, escribir para olvidarse de que uno está viajando, y para recordarlo después. ¿Y si Bioy fuera el mayor diarista del continente?”.

Ricardo Piglia, Almudena Grandes, Mario Vargas Llosa and Others on Their New Books

El Pais has an article about the new books that are coming out from Spanish language authors this fall. Among works by Ricardo Piglia, Almudena Grandes, Mario Vargas Llosa there will also be a book by Adolfo Bioy Casares that compiles his photos from a trip to Brazil in 1960. Mostly the article is authors talkinga bout their works, but interesting none the less.

1. ¿Por qué ha elegido ese tema o argumento para el nuevo libro?

2. ¿Cuándo y cómo fue el momento de inspiración para escribir sobre eso?

Ricardo Piglia

Blanco nocturno (Anagrama)

1. En el origen estuvo la figura de Luca y la leyenda familiar; pensé la novela centrada en un héroe enfrentado al destino y trabajé una trama con muchos personajes secundarios y varios conflictos. Traté de buscar un registro digamos épico. ¿Cómo sería hoy escribir una historia épica? Ese fue para mí el desafío del libro.

2. Imaginé la historia hace mucho tiempo, antes de publicar Prisión perpetua. Escribí una primera versión y la dejé, luego la retomé y la reescribí y la volví a dejar… Me gusta -aunque no lo recomiendo- ese modo de escribir porque las historias cambian, como si -al decantarse- encontraran su propia inspiración.

Almudena Grandes

Inés y la alegría (Tusquets)

1 y 2. No estoy muy segura de haber escogido el tema de Inés y la alegría. Más bien, la invasión de Arán me escogió a mí. Cuando leí que un ejército de cuatro mil hombres había invadido el valle en otoño de 1944, y que lo había ocupado durante nueve días a la espera de un apoyo aliado que nunca llegó, me costó trabajo aceptar que semejante episodio permaneciera en el olvido. Averigüé algo más sobre el origen y las características de aquella aventura, y descubrí a un personaje irresistible, Jesús Monzón, moviendo los hilos de una trama más fascinante que cualquiera que yo hubiera podido inventar.

Short Stories From Ines Mendoza, Ronaldo Menendez, Javier Saez de Ibarra (Spanish Only)

A few more short stories from Spanish authors (in Spanish only) . Javier Saez de Ibarra won the first International Prize for Short Stories Ribera del Duero in March of 2009.

Debutantes, Javier Saez de Ibarra

Mohr, la que huye de la luz, Ines Mendoza

Paralelamente, Ronaldo Menendez

Short Stories From Andres Neuman, Fernando Iwasaki, Hipólito Navarro, Clara Obligado, Patricia Esteban Erlés

For your end of summer reading pleasure: short stories from Andres Neuman, Fernando Iwasaki, Hipólito Navarro, Clara Obligado, and Patricia Esteban Erlés. These are all in Spanish and unfortunately I doubt Google translate will help. All of these links are via the publisher Paginas de Espuma.

Fernando Iwasaki in  El País titled Emmanuelle Allen:

Hipólito G. Navarro (El pez volador) in Público:.

In Público by Clara Obligado:

In El País by Andres Neuman:

In Público by Patricia Esteban Erlés:

Spanish Short Stories – The Forgotten Greats and the New Voices

El Pais has an excellent article on short story writers from the 20th century and beyond, with special emphasis on the forgotten during the post war and the new young writers. If you are interested in short stories the article is a must. What is fascinating from my own reading and notes of the author is the interest in playing with reality. Despite the oft cited interest in Americans like Carver, there is a definite interest in authors like Poe, Borges and Cortazar.

One could spend a year reading all these books:

Para estar al corriente de los tiempos que se avecinan, Gemma Pellicer y Fernando Valls nos proponen Siglo XXI (Menoscuarto), subtitulado Los nuevos nombres del cuento español actual. Siguiendo la pauta de un libro anterior a cargo de F. Valls y J. A. Masoliver, Los cuentos que cuentan (1998) (con el que este reciente volumen dialoga), se recoge aquí también una breve reflexión sobre el género firmada por cada uno de los autores escogidos. Sin ánimo de entrar a debatir algunas de las afirmaciones vertidas en la presentación del volumen ni matizar el tono de regusto canonizante que preside esta gavilla de relatos, sí quiero apuntar un par de cuestiones. Al margen de la fecha de publicación de los relatos aquí reunidos (todos posteriores a 2000, en efecto), a menos que admitamos que el siglo XXI empezó en 1989, aproximadamente la mitad de estos “nuevos nombres” pertenece al último tramo del XX, no sólo por haber empezado a publicar a principios de los noventa sino por su específica filiación literaria; en este sentido, faltan autores incontestables. Por eso del subtítulo me sobra el “los” y cuestiono la pretendida novedad, aunque es cierto que la nómina de autores de trayectoria más breve y reciente está más equilibrada, destacando la justa y merecida presencia de escritoras como Berta Vias Mahou, Elvira Navarro, Berta Marsé o Cristina Grande.

Esta última publica Agua quieta (Vagamundos): 36 narraciones próximas a la intensidad y el lirismo de la prosa poética, que apuntan el latido cotidiano del presente al modo diarístico (una breve escapada a Escocia o la lectura sosegada de la vida de Chéjov según Natalia Ginsburg), o se desplazan en el tiempo evocando historias de familia y los juegos y paisajes de la niñez.

Al modo de novela de formación o aprendizaje podría leerse Conozco un atajo que te llevará al infierno (e.d.a. libros), del valenciano Pepe Cervera: dieciocho estampas que atraviesan la adolescencia, juventud y primera madurez de Andrés Tangen, de las cuales en Siglo XXI se recoge la penúltima, ‘Como un hombre que sobrevuela el mar’.

Una de las autoras-revelación incluida en Siglo XXI es Patricia Esteban Erlés, que publica su tercer libro de relatos, Azul oscuro (Páginas de Espuma), cuentos de un gran despliegue imaginativo en los que la realidad o la vida cotidiana queda alterada por la irrupción de un elemento extraño, de un acontecimiento tan inesperado como incomprensible o de un comportamiento ingobernable. Algunos textos alcanzan grados de condensación casi poéticos y por lo general ocultan más de lo que dicen, con finales abiertos, tan inquietantes como sugestivos, o un cierre sorpresivo en el mejor estilo de Poe. Destacaría el que da título al libro, ‘Azul ruso’ -donde encontramos a la nueva Circe Emma Zunz, que “fue convirtiendo en gatos a todos los hombres que cruzaron la puerta del viejo edificio con aires de teatro cerrado donde vivía”- y ‘La chica del UHF’ -protagonizado por Antonio Puñales, un “técnico en pompas fúnebres” que se desvive por crear amor y belleza allí donde dominan el horror o la avaricia.