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” . . .
In Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Flaubert attempted to highlight the ordinary, tired, and often crass nature of common expressions by italicising them within the text. When Charles, Emma Bovary’s mediocre husband, expresses himself in a manner akin to that of. . .
Eliot Weinberger takes big strides across literary history in his genuinely breathtaking short work, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, tracking translations of a short ancient Chinese poem from the publication of Ezra Pound’s Cathay in 1915 to Gary. . .
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The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
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Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .