Thursday, September 27, 2012

Spanish Fiction in Translation

Here for your reading consideration are five recent novels set in Spain, originally written in Spanish and now available in English. Disfrutar!

The Sadness of the Samurai : a novel (M)
by Víctor del Árbol ; translated by Mara Faye Lethem

"In his English debut, Spaniard del Àrbol brings a police officer's experience of human perversity to bear in a wrenching, violent, and lugubrious story of motive and madness set in pro-Nazi Spain in 1941 and Barcelona in 1981. As lawyer Maria Bengoechea breathes her last in a hospital bed in 1981, we become privy to the snarled web of ambition and treachery in the circumstances that brought on her demise.  

Tension oozes from every page as seemingly unrelated people and facts come to light, slowly making surprising connections in a somewhat confusing narrative that switches between 1941 and 1981 several times. American readers may need to brush up on twentieth-century Spanish history to grasp all the connections between the two time periods, but del Àrbol drives home his thesis that those who choose to do evil do so for the sake of love or power; in this case, for a woman or for governance. A story of rebellion, murder, and political ideology comes together in a gripping thriller that rivals the suspense of Alan Furst's Night Soldiers and C. J. Sansom's Winter in Madrid." - Booklist 

The Barcelona Brothers : a novel (M)
by Carlos Zanón ; translated by John Cullen.

"In a fit of jealousy and inadequacy, Epi Dalmau hammers his friend, the Morrocan Tanveer, to death in a bar. His brother Alex is witness to the murder, but Epi runs away from the scene before they have a chance to cover their tracks. Alex and the barman agree to protect Epi, and allow the blame to fall on a Pakistani man who wandered in to use the toilet...

Carlos Zanón has previously published four volumes of poetry and his mastery of language and atmosphere is apparent even in translation. The dialogue is spot-on, the descriptions are confident, even lyrical at times, and it manages to skim the edges of pulp territory while never getting too lurid. The Barcelona Brothers takes a long, hard look at what people are capable of when they have no other options, and a portrait of a modern, multicultural Barcelona, with all the tensions simmering under the touristy surface. If you are in the mood for a darker than average holiday read, this is the book for you." Crime Fiction Lover
The Time in Between : a novel (M)
by Maria Duenas ; translated by Daniel Hahn.

"On the eve of the Spanish Civil War, Sira Quiroga, a young seamstress from Madrid, is abandoned in Morocco by her manipulative lover. Forced to pay off his debts while mending her broken heart, Sira sets about opening a dress shop in the city of Tetouan to make money from the only trade she knows. That decision soon lands her not only in the eye of the Spanish protectorate's fashionable elite but also in the web of powerful friendships and political alliances determined to keep Francoist Spain from entering WWII on the side of the Axis.  

Packed with engaging characters many of whom, like the charming Rosalinda Fox and her lover, Colonel Juan Luis Beigbeder, were actual players in 1930s European politics flawlessly researched, and breathlessly paced for its 600-plus pages, this debut novel captures the beauty and decadence of pre-WWII Europe without ignoring or minimizing the very real suffering of Spaniards following Franco's rise to power. Its focus on the realities of this conflict, which are often overshadowed by the Third Reich, and on the story of a cunning, courageous, and fascinating woman who could well have existed have rightly earned it a place on several international best-seller lists" - Booklist

The Lost Angel : a novel (M)
by Javier Sierra ; translated by Carlos Frías.

"In New York Times best-selling author Sierra's (The Secret Supper) latest thriller, a young woman seeking to discover the cause of the deterioration of the sculptures in the Spanish Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is approached by a strange monk, drawn into a gunfight, shown a video of her husband's kidnapping, interrogated by a U.S. Special Agent, and ultimately kidnapped by the terrorist group holding her husband. The clues communicated by her husband in the video lead the woman to find a hidden adamantas stone-one of a pair with powers that, in the right hands, can enable direct communication with God. She is led by the terrorists on a wild chase, with government agents and the Spanish police in close pursuit, up Mount Ararat. Will she get to the top in time to use the stones to save the world and prevent the terrorists from carrying out their plans?

VERDICT Sierra has fashioned a spine-tingling apocalyptic thriller set in real-world locations and based on well-researched mythology and scientific facts, with just the right amount of fiction to make for an excellent read." Library Journal

Waiting for Robert Capa : a novel (M)
by Susana Fortes ; translation by Adriana V. Lopez.

" An extraordinary novel of love, war, and art, based on the turbulent real-life romance of legendary photojournalists Gerda Taro and Robert Capa. Artists, Jews, nonconformists, exiles. Gerta Pohorylle meets André Friedmann in Paris in 1935 and is drawn to his fierce dedication to justice, journalism, and the art of photography. Assuming new names, Gerda Taro and Robert Capa travel together to Spain, Europe's most harrowing war zone, to document the rapidly intensifying turmoil of the Spanish Civil War. In the midst of the peril and chaos of brutal conflict, a romance for the ages is born, marked by passion and recklessness . . . until tragedy intervenes." -Publisher

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