The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Ángel Vivas' article 1989-2014: las 25 mejores novelas was published recently in El Mundo. I'm distressed, nay, delighted, no, appalled, er, indifferent, in short, a bundle of contradictions when I report that I haven't read any of these books. And I style myself a reader. I wouldn't blame you if you took this opportunity to go elsewhere for your literary fix.

No, no, please stay.

Note that these are books written by authors born in Spain and who write in Spanish (so no Galician or Catalan or Basque or - help me out here - any other language spoken in that country).

En La Orilla : Rafael Chirbes (2013). A stark portrait of modern Spain, combing through such evils as real estate speculation and careerism. (Careerism? What's he on about?) This book may soon be available in translation, published by Harvill Secker.

La noche de los tiempos : Antonio Muñoz Molina (2009). An ambitious and comprehensive account of the civil war, written with an evident desire to avoid sectarianism. Or, as the Americans might put it, a bipartisan narrative.

Crematorio : Rafael Chirbes (2007). Him again. Why aren't his works easy to find in English? 

Rabos de lagartija : Juan Marsé (2000). Set in post-war Spain, this explores the complex relationship between truth and falsehood, appearance and reality.

Juegos de la edad tardía : Luis Landero (1989). This was his first novel, wandering across a domain of unfulfilled dreams, contrasting reality and desire.

El hereje : Miguel Delibes (1998). A group of Protestants were burned in Valladolid in the mid-sixteenth century. Delibes wrote this rich novel as a defence of freedom of conscience.

Verdes valles, colinas rojas : Ramiro Pinilla (2004). A fresh and ambitious take on the social transformation of the Basque country since the 19th century.

La larga marcha : Rafael Chirbes (1996). Bildungsroman of humiliation, silence, survival from the Spanish Civil War to the end of the Franco regime. Complex and uncomplacent.

El día de mañana: Ignacio Martínez de Pisón (2011). A kaleidoscopic structure tells the story in the style of classic movies of a social climber, through whom the author does something to the Spain of the 60s and 70s when the transition to democracy was incubated. (Or intubated?)

El mal de Montano : Enrique Vila-Matas (2002). A hypnotic meta-novel with a self-referential style that fascinates and irritates in equal measure.

Los peces de la amargura : Fernando Aramburu (2006). In one of the few incursions of Spanish narrative into the problems and consequences of terrorism, Aramburu is openly committed to its victims and to their memory.

Corazón tan blanco : Javier Marías (1992). An elegant, intriguing and subtle story of complex emotional relationships. Should one know everything about one's love? Should some things remain hidden? 

El Metro de Platino Iridiado : Álvaro Pombo (1990). Pombo has a particular sympathy for female characters, which he displays this in this excellent literary work.

Galíndez : Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (1991). A representative of the Basque government in exile, Galíndez was kidnapped and murdered by the police of the Dominican dictator Trujillo after he escaped to Santo Domingo following the Spanish Civil War. Montalbán's investigative novel is brilliant.

La ruina del cielo : Luis Mateo Díez (1999). The Ruins of Heaven is the second in Díez's trilogy depicting the impending destruction of rural culture. An impeccable literary anthropology of death. (Shivers down my spine at that last sentence. And shivers back up again.)

El embrujo de ShanghaiJuan Marsé (1993). Marsé! Marsé! He returns to seduce you with his seemingly simple style and a bittersweet story that deals with the loss of innocence! Oh, Marsé!

Estatua con palomas: Luis Goytisolo (1992). A confluence of two histories, one in modern Barcelona, the other in classical Rome, characterised by the skill and quality of Goytisolo's language.

Romanticismo : Manuel Longares (2001). An ironic and elevated examination of the last years of the Franco dictatorship, set in Madrid and Salamanca.

Leyenda Del Cesar Visionario : Francisco Umbral (1991). A fictional memoir of recent events, mixing history with imagination, a free and literary exploration of the Civil War in Burgos and Salamanca veering between the mythic and the realistic. (How many different ways can one say 'real' and 'imagined'?)

El Corazón Helado : Almudena Grandes (2007). Finally! A woman. Intense and exciting tale of two families, filled with unforgettable characters and intrigue, all in the shadow of the Civil War.

Soldados De Salamina : Javier Cercas (2001). More Civil War narrative (available as Soldiers of Salamis, in translation).

La Saga de los Marx: Juan Goytisolo (1993). Following the collapse of Communism, fleeing Albanians seek a better life in a capitalist Europe. Goytisolo writes a novel-within-a-novel, telling the family history of Marx in the context of his theoretical and political legacy.

El espiritu aspero : Gonzalo Hidalgo Bayal (2009). Metaliterary masterpiece, verbal masterpiece, a taste of linguistic masterpiecery from the Baroque to Oulipo.

El Cazador de Leones : Javier Tomeo (1989). A master of Kafkaesque concision and absurdity, this is a collection of short stories that dissects its characters like an entomologist. 

Los Girasoles Ciegos : Alberto Méndez (2004). More narrative on the civil war, enhanced by language of true quality. Not one of your weak and conformist novels.

So there you go. One book by a woman out of twenty-five. Who says machismo is dead? 

But if you'd like to better the averages a bit, a commenter recommended Olvidado rey Gudú by Ana María Matute.


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