I’ve always had a thing for Spanish literature. Not sure exactly why or how this started, although I do remember struggling my way through Cortazar’s “A Continuity of Parks,” thinking holy s— this can’t actually be what’s happening, then reading the English version, finding myself even more blown away and proceeding to devour his entire oeuvre over the course of the ensuing year. (The next tattoo I get will likely be a reference to either Hopscotch or 62: A Model Kit.)
There’s something special about the great Spanish-language works . . . They can be as philosophically complicated as the French (see Juan Jose Saer’s Nouveau Roman influenced novels), while still remaining very grounded, emotional (see all of Manuel Puig), and others represent the epitome of wordplay and linguistic gamesmanship (see Cabrera Infante’s Three Trapped Tigers).
Not trying to say that Spanish-language literature is better than that of other languages—I’m just trying to explain why I’m so drawn to it, why we published Latin American authors make up such a large portion of Open Letter’s list (Macedonio Fernandez, Juan Jose Saer, Alejandro Zambra, Sergio Chejfec, not to mention the Catalan writers, which, though vastly different in language, have a sort of kinship with their fellow Spanish writers). And why I read so many Spanish works in my “free time,” why I love Buenos Aires, the tango, etc. . . .
Regardless, when I found out that Granta was releasing a special issue of the “Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists,” I was psyched. (This really hits at the crux of my obsessions: Spanish literature and lists.) I tried to tease names from the forthcoming list out of the wonderful Saskia Vogel and the multi-talented John Freeman, but neither would give away any secrets. So when the list was finally announced, I was doubly pleased to see that six of the authors on there either already are published by Open Letter or will be in the near future.
But equally, if not more exciting, was the fact that the vast majority of names on this list were new to me . . .
So I’ve been counting down the days until this issue releases. (Which it technically does on Monday.) And talking with the aforementioned John Freeman and Saskia Vogel about things Three Percent could do to help spread the word about this project.
As you may have already seen, we did run the uncut introduction that appeared in the Spanish-language version of this issue, but, though fascinating, that doesn’t really explain who these 22 authors are, or what they’re actually up to.
After a series of back-and-forth e-mails—all filled with excitement and possibility—we’ve decided to launch a special “22 Days of Awesome” series, through which, starting on Monday, with the help of superstar Open Letter intern Emily Davis, we’ll be highlighting one author a day from the Granta issue. This may take the form of an interview with the author, info about his/her work, rambling appreciations, comments from the translator, or a special excerpt. The point being that Granta deserves props for putting together this amazing issue, but each of the authors also deserves his/her individual chance to be acknowledged and congratulated.
All of these posts will be stored under the young spanish novelists tag, making it easy to find the individual posts, etc. We’re also planning some sort of Twitter conversation about the issue, and as a special offer, if you click here you can subscribe to Granta and receive this issue for free!
This should be a very interesting tour of contemporary Spanish-language literature, and a glimpse into the future, since I’m pretty sure all of these authors will (or already are) be available in English-translation sometime soon . . . So please tell your friends, professors, booksellers, etc., about this little project, and feel free to chime in in the comments section with your thoughts, opinions, complaints, etc.
Concurrent with our trip through this issue, Granta‘s blog will be running its own set of interviews and whatnot. Today they have a post from Adam Thirlwell (who wrote a wonderful introduction to Macedonio Fernandez’s The Museum of Eterna’s Novel (The First Good Novel), is the author of two novels, and wrote The Delighted States, a book about translation that I’m greatly enjoying) about lists:
This, of course, is the era of Lists. But no, I’ve gone too fast. The real definition of our era is this: it’s the era when reading is difficult. We are in the kindergarten of images, the playground of spectacle: the total jouissance. When I was a kid it was the era of video; the Walkman and the floppy disc. In other words, dear remaining readers, it was still the era of words. Now, the images are so much less solid, so much more transparent and dissolving and so the images are everywhere. Which is why in minute resistance to the fact that images are everywhere, are transparent, and that reading is difficult, a certain kind of sad and noble person begins to make Lists. These are the Lists of Necessary Reading. [. . .]
Because let’s be honest about the problem. Some literature, naturally, some of the time, becomes the literature that is briefly read. Let’s delete literature: let’s call it novels. The novels that are briefly read have three categories. There are the Novels That Everyone Is Reading: the novels of momentary stardom. Apart from these novels there are two other ways for a novel and a novelist to emerge in public. There is, sometimes, the Avantgarde that enrages and disturbs – with its crazy games, its crazy sextalk, its crazy violence. And then, sometimes, there is the Lost Avantgarde that enrages and disturbs: the historical avantgarde, the rediscovered classic. These are the three categories of books that reach the category of reading. Whereas most novels most of the time inhabit a strange realm of the calmly unread: the absolutely absent. And this is why a certain kind of noble magazine decides to invent a public Reading List. They are a magnanimous form of publicity. Even if, of course, a ruthlessness is already visible: where are the Lists of the Very Old? Where are the Lists of the Very Foreign? Because this is the age of spectacle, after all. Even the listmaker knows the limitations.
And as always, Granta is planning a series of interesting events to promote this particular issue. These events kick off this weekend with two events at the Miami International Book Fair:
Friday 19 November: Granta 113: The Miami Book Fair Launch Party
Join novelists Pola Oloixarac and Carlos Yushimito and editors John Freeman, Aurelio Major and Valerie Miles to celebrate the US launch.
Gemma Lounge, 529 Lincoln Road, Miami, FL 33139, 8 p.m.
Saturday 20 November: Introducing The Best of Young Spanish-language Novelists: The US Launch
Pola Oloixarac, Carlos Yushimito and editors John Freeman, Aurelio Major and Valerie Miles ask: Why this list? and Why now?
Miami International Book Fair, Room 3314 (Building 3, 3rd Floor), Miami Dade College, 300 NE Second Ave, Miami, FL 33132, 4 p.m.
If you’re in Miami, both of these seem worthwhile checking out . . .
Finally, if you want to purchase this issue, it’ll be available next week in better bookstores everywhere, or, as mentioned above, you can receive a free copy of this issue by subscribing to Granta.
OK, I’ll be back Monday with the first of our “22 Days of Awesome” . . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .