Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:


“Alex,” I call to my long-suffering Catalan girlfriend, “what was number one they day you were born?”

Thud thud thud her boots resonate across out hispanically uncarpeted floor.  “What, in terms of music?” she asks, her eyes narrowing.

No: in terms of fishing, I want to say in an attempt at some festive humour. But the baby’s been ill, no one is sleeping and I suspect it might go down badly. “Yes, music,” I say instead.

The eyes narrow further. “I don’t know,” she says. “Maybe that’s something for you to investigate.”

The correct answer, of course, was “I don’t know. How about you?”, to which I would have happily replied “Donna Summer’s I Feel Love”, this being the kind of question I love to be asked. But I have a theory here, so I need to press on.

“And what do you think is going to be the Christmas number one?” I ask, my agenda narrowing. 

“No idea,” she says happily and wanders off.

And thus my theory is proved. You see, the Spanish love music, much like the British. We’re both, dare I say it, musical nations. But if there’s one thing the British love almost as much as music, it is a nice tidy list, one that gently ushers all the uncertainties and worries of everyday life into an easily digested, one to 100 rundown.

Combine music and lists, then, and the British are in hog heaven. And that is why the British are so obsessed with the musical charts.

Don’t believe me? OK - then ask any British people within earshot what was number one the day they were born. I’ll guess some 60% of them will be able to tell you straight off, while the rest will go and look it up. And that percentage increases when you talk to people in their 30s and 40s, setting those who have no interest in the British pop scene circa 1977 off at the risk of a serious boring. Honestly, there are whole websites and apps devoted to this number one on your birthday phenomenon.

This phenomenon extends into the current charts. OK, things in Britain aren’t quite what they once were, when weekly chart-based music show Top of The Pops regularly attracted audiences of 10m plus and having a number one record had serious cultural cachet. 

But people still like to keep a vague eye on the charts in the UK. In Spain, however, I don’t think it would be going too far to say that no one gives a flying cahoot about the charts, not even those who work in the music industry, and having a number one record here is little more than an oddity. (You can apparently top the Spanish charts with something like 8,000 sales, which might have something to do with it.)

Never stronger is the UK’s love affair with the charts than at Christmas. If having a number one is a pretty big deal in Britain at the best of times, then having a number one at Christmas is like winning the lottery while scoring a date with Penélope Cruz at the clásico.

The British Christmas number one is big news, in other words: front page of the paper news; breathless chart battle news; genuine round the water cooler news. Every year - and Spaniard might find this British eccentricity a little hard to stomach - people in the UK bet millions of pounds on what song they thing is going to top the charts at Christmas. 

The favourite this year, for example, is the single from the X Factor winner (announced, conveniently, just before Christmas) at 2/7, with Band Aid 30 coming in second at 9/2 with Do They Know It’s Christmas, and Iron Maiden’s The Number of the Beast coming in at third, on odds of 8/1.

The number of the, er, what now? Confused readers may be asking.

But yes, that’s hoary old heavy metal group Iron Maiden as third favourite to top the Christmas chart, with a 30-year-old song. Because, much as the Christmas number one is an immensely big deal, so to is sabotaging - for want of a better word - the festive chart.

For this  - as with so many things - you can blame X Factor supremo Simon Cowell. It used to be the the British Christmas number one would throw up some real oddities, happily lurching from pop supergroup the Spice Girls in 1996/7/8 to children’s TV character Bob The Builder in 2000 and Gary Jules’ spooky cover of Mad World (from Donnie Darko) in 2003. It was, in other words, a kind of brilliant, ludicrous chaos.

And then the X Factor came along, sweeping record TV audiences before it, and from 2005 to 2008 the X Factor winner made the Christmas number one slot their own. Suddenly, competition for the sacred Christmas number one looked boring and predictable, a one-horse race that no one was even watching.  And that - for the Christmas-chart-loving Brits - just wouldn’t do.

So someone took action: Jon Morter, a part-time DJ rom Chelmsford, launched a campaign to get Rage Against The Machine’s Killing in the Name to Christmas number one. And against all odds he succeed, with the song selling half a million copies in the Christmas week to beat X Factor winner Joe McElderry to the number one slot. 

Ever since then, no December has been complete without a least one online campaign to beat the X factor winner to number one at Christmas. Frequently, in fact, there have been more than one, with a campaign this year dedicated to getting LFO’s bleep classic LFO to number one to mark the death of the group’s founder Mark Bell.

Why am I telling you all this? Because few things, I think, help to understand the obtuse British mentality more than these Christmas chart campaigns, which are born of the kind of spirit-of-the-underdog, perverse humour that the British have made their own.

What’s more, for any Spanish people living in the UK, this should serve as a kind of guide to what you should say when a drunk Briton corners you at the office Christmas party and asks you for your views on the Christmas number one. (“I’m backing LFO”, incidentally, is the coolest thing to say).

More than anything, though, it is this kind of celebratory festive prank that I miss about living in Britain, more so than mince pies, mistletoe and even mulled wine. 

And so if anyone wants to come up with a Facebook campaign to get Slayer’s Raining Blood to number one in the Spanish charts this Christmas, you have my full backing.

Photograph of the horse taken on Sunday / Photo: supplied

Animal rights activists are pushing for the prosecution of a man who allegedly dragged a skeletal horse out of its stable with a tractor and left it to die on wasteland at the Villa Salada Equine Centre in Spain's southern Alicante province.

A distressed young woman, who saw the abandoned horse and took photographs as evidence, called police to the Villa Salada centre at Torrevieja on Sunday afternoon.

The horse was still alive at the time, but was moved out of sight before police arrived. It is understood the horse was later put down by a veterinarian under police supervision.

The young woman has since filed a police report with Seprona, Spain’s animal welfare arm, alleging that the owner of the Villa Salada Equine Centre failed to provide adequate food and water for the horse and then abandoned it in cruel conditions.

Villa Salada is a popular tourist attraction offering Spanish horses and flamenco fusion shows, plus riding lessons and livery facilities for horse owners.

The horse is understood to be named Chiquitín. Photos by former employees uploaded to a Facebook protest page show the horse in good condition as little as three years ago. The photos taken on Sunday have created a storm on social media, and Villa Salada closed down their Facebook page this week.

A response on the Facebook protest page, purportedly by Villa Salada, claims the 32-year-old horse was found sick and with symptoms of pain early on Sunday morning. The post says a vet was unable to attend but gave instructions over the phone, and the horse was removed from its stable using a hoist. “Chiquitín has been looked after and supervised until the very last moment,” the post says.

While some have called for the closure of Villa Salada, Sue Weeding, a British expat who runs Alicante's Easy Horse Care Rescue Centre, said the events should instead serve as a warning to horse owners in Spain to clean up their act.

“We must use pictures like these to ensure people keeping horses realise they can no longer get away with abuse and neglect. Witnesses are now prepared to go to the police and the police will act. Things are changing,” she said.

“We’re not asking for all these places to close down because that would create another problem – where would all these horses then go? But people must realise that if they want to stay in business, they must no longer do this. Public opinion is a very powerful thing.”

Ms Weeding and her husband Rod care for more than 80 horses, ponies and donkeys saved from abuse and neglect, at the rescue centre they founded in 2008 just outside the small southern town of Rojales. Some of the animal's remarkable stories were told in this documentary.

Sue and Rod Weeding
Easy Horse Care Rescue Centre founders, Sue and Rod Weeding / Photo: Koren Helbig

The couple have previously been involved in several high-profile abuse cases, such as the 2010 case of Captain and Hope, two skeletal horses left to die inside a garage. Their dreadful condition attracted major media attention and amid intense community lobbying, police finally acted.

A man was later jailed in what was believed to be the first such prosecution in Spain. Ms Weeding said authorities have been on the rescue centre’s side ever since.

The couple earned further fame in Spain for their challenging rescue of the neglected pony Faith, left with a mutilated foreleg after she became entangled in her own rope. Despite their best efforts, Faith’s leg eventually had to be amputated and she became the first pony in Spain to be fitted with a prosthetic leg.

“There are lots of very good people here who do care for their horses. But there are others that abuse their animals and that’s where we come in. We’ll always take in a horse, pony or donkey and do our part to care for it, because the police need us as a tool to work with,” Ms Weeding said.

“Slowly, by working with the police, we’re seeing a huge attitude change. They’re doing the reports and they’re doing the work. We always encourage anyone who sees an animal in distress to report it because police are acting promptly and taking these matters seriously. This is the only way we’re going to move animal welfare forward here in Spain.”

More information about the Easy Horse Care Rescue Centre is available here.


Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist, writer and blogger based in Alicante. She writes about Spanish life and culture for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. She hangs out on Google+ and on Twitter at @KorenHelbig.

Meeting the neighbours.

Por: | 08 de diciembre de 2014

Can Rei in the sunshine
I told someone recently that I didn’t really feel as if I lived in Spain because Majorca has such a strong identity for me. But you would think, having lived in Majorca for a decade, that perhaps we would have got round to at least visiting the other of the Balearic Islands, wouldn’t you? It smacks of a lack of curiosity, but in reality it was a lack of time, money and opportunity that had prevented me from visiting Ibiza and Formentera until very recently when I was invited to take my husband and daughter to stay in a (rather lovely) house in Ibiza for a couple of days. This was our first ever trip together where we have not been going to visit another member of our family somewhere in the UK or France, but it was also the trip that almost didn’t happen due to a huge workload and schedules. However, we did eventually make it on to a ferry with our car laden with food, clothes and (unfortunately) laptops so we could keep working during the time away.

We’d been told that Ibiza would be “totally dead” by the time we got there, the clubs would have had their end of season parties, and that would be that. “Sounds perfect” was our response as peace and quiet is what we were after, and it is exactly what we got. The house, Can Rei, (from was about five minutes’ drive from Ibiza Town (so not too far from civilisation and supplies) and down a winding country track. It’s set in its own private garden with a big pool which my daughter was in immediately, despite the autumnal temperatures. Really, we could have stayed at the house for the whole time we were there and been perfectly happy, but with a nine year old climbing up the walls to do something we had to get out and about and have some adventures.

First up was a trip around and about to see some of the places that we’d heard about. Think Ibiza, and you probably either think of the big clubs or hippies. So we went for the latter and wandered around the “Hippy Market” in Punta Arabi at Es Cana. It reminded Oliver and I of a warmer version of Camden Market. It’s certainly got a lot of interesting stalls with handmade and imported goods, mixed in of course with a bit of tat, but that’s always to be expected in markets. I liked the atmosphere there, but I can imagine it would be quite packed and difficult to get round in the season. It sounds obvious but as we were driving around the island in our trusty little Wagon R we realised that Ibiza had quite a different attitude to retail and visitors in general. Now and again along the road you could come across a rather interesting looking shop selling interior decoration, or eccentric garden items, and on the beaches it seemed that the regulations about how much you could build on a beach or run a business on a beach were much more relaxed than they are here in Majorca.

Elements, Benirrás Beach, Ibiza
We went to Benirrás Beach, which you get to by driving down through beautiful hills and valleys. This is not only a beautiful spot to while away a day, but also a great place to be for sundown when drummers gather to ‘drum down the sunset’. We found ourselves in a beach bar called Elements, which was very relaxed and informal, and proudly displaying on their signage that they were going to be open until December. Looking inside in their boutique we had a quick glimpse of the luxury end of the Ibizan dream, with astronomical prices for artwork and designer clothes, as you can imagine we didn’t hang around too long in there with a nine year who’d just had a Berry Smoothie and was covered in sticky juice.

Ollie and Gigi off on their adventures

We also went to Formentera for the day. If you’re thinking of doing that and you’re a Balearic resident then take some ID with you to get the discount: 26.80€ adult return. After a thirty minute crossing you’re on the island and the first thing to do is to get your hands on either a bike, a car, a mini moke or a scooter. I had originally suggested scooters when we were talking about going, but stood there in the rental office signing up I started to regret the idea, and desperately said maybe we might get a mini moke instead? But my daughter was having none of it and we hired two scooters for the day. I haven’t been on a scooter since my teens when I was the proud owner of one those that you actually can pedal as well as have a scoot around on, so in theory I knew what I was supposed to be doing. In reality it took quite a lot of wobbling around roundabouts at a snail’s pace before I started to feel okay. Meanwhile my husband and child were off like a shot. My feeble efforts, and my “own personal traffic jam” were made fun of for the rest of the day. Ho hum.

Platja Mitjorn, Formentera
Formentera was absolutely gorgeous as well, and the beaches which have the legendary reputation of being Caribbean-like in their quality were exactly that. I can report that the sand is as close to demerara sugar as it can get, and the water is crystal clear and turquoise: absolutely exquisite.  We went to Platja Mitjorn and stumbled across a hippy beach bar called Piratabus which has been going for thirty years in the same position on the top of some sand dunes overlooking a wide expanse of the Mediterranean Sea. I was quite saddle sore and stressed out from my own personal battle with staying atop of a scooter and very much needed a sit down and a little something: sitting with an ice cold “clara” watching some old boys playing draughts whilst the sun warmed my back, listening to some very good acoustic guitar being played somewhere in the background will remain with me as a highlight of my Formentera day out. Asking my daughter what her highlights were of our trip she lists the Can Rei pool, and the amazing beaches.

I’d often read and heard about the different personalities of the islands of Ibiza and Formentera. And conversations since our trip with friends who are more au fait with the history and style of the islands support our own experiences. So, after a decade of living next door, we’ve finally shook hands with the neighbours, and we loved meeting them. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take another decade to go back round to borrow a cup of sugar, Demerara of course.

For more information on properties visit Ibiza Summer Villas


Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only English language daily paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki. 


It is said you can know a lot about a country by its advertising. And when this combines with the pop psychological fest that is Christmas, that surely goes double. The release last week, then, of Freixenet’s annual Christmas TV ad, following hot on the heels of the John Lewis advert in Britain, promises to be a veritable paradise for the armchair psychologist.

The John Lewis ad, for those who don’t know (i.e. pretty much everyone outside of the UK), has in the words of The Guardian “become as regular a part of the Yuletide season as turkey, aggro in Albert Square and disappointing knitwear” since it launched in 2007.

It is, much like its Freixenet counterpart, that one ad that people genuinely look out for over the festive period, the one piece of publicity that gets discussed around water coolers, endlessly picked over in the media (hello!) and savaged by useless comedians.

But there the crossover with Freixenet ends. For, while the Freixenet ad piles on celebrity and glitz (this year it features David Bisbal and María Valverde – well, there is a recession on – while previous years have included everyone from Shakira to Christopher Reeve), John Lewis 2014 stars a lonely penguin called Monty and a mopey take on John Lennon’s Real Love, courtesy of soul singer Tom Odell.  And if that doesn’t sound like much of a Christmas to you, Spaniards, well you’ve obviously never spent December 25 in Blackburn.

I’m joking, of course.  But the truth is that a comparison between the Freixenet and John Lewis ads can tell us a lot about the two countries’ views of the festive period.

1) A British Christmas is tinged with melancholy

Freixenet’s Christmas ads are not, typically, subtle affairs, nor do they wildly push the boat out in terms of originality. In fact, you can pretty much pick off the Freixenet clichés as they come bouncing by every year: dancing girls - check; lively music - check; star appearances - check; and lots and lots of gold - check.

None of this really matters, though, as the one thing that Freixenet adverts always convey is fun and lots of it. Here you go, they say, it’s the holidays at last. Put your feet up, have a glass of cava and enjoy yourself.

The John Lewis ads are rarely so uncomplicated. In fact, on the face of it, they initially appear a bit of a downer. This year’s effort, for example, features a boy mooning around with his “adorable” penguin friend except - hold on! - there’s a problem in paradise. Yes Monty the penguin (or #MontyThePenguin if you want to sip the John Lewis Kool-Aid) is feeling alone and unloved, gazing idly at loving couples passing by with barely disguised penguin lust, while Tom Odell warbles on about Real Love, just to rub it in.

Come on Monty, you want to say, cheer up a bit and have a glass of cava. It’s Christmas, for crying out loud. But fear not, because Monty’s faithful human pal has got him a penguin lady friend as a Christmas present and the advert ends with Monty giving his new paramour a peck on the beak (at which point he turns back into the fluffy toy he presumably was all along).

Our Spanish readers might be wondering at the moment what on earth is Christmasy about that (presents apart). But the British will know that there is no Christmas untinged with melancholy and the John Lewis ads tap into this perfectly. Yes, we’re a gloomy lot, the British, and especially when we’re meant to be enjoying ourselves. How else do you think we invented The Smiths?

 2) The British don’t dance. Not at Christmas. Not ever.

…. and talking of The Smiths, that brings us onto the second key difference between the John Lewis and Freixenet ads: the music. 

While the Freixenet ads typically hop along with some upbeat number, usually tinged with a hint of swing nostalgia, and LOTS AND LOTS of dancing, the John Lewis ads revel in music that is an exercise in moping around, gently tugging heart strings. In fact, the John Lewis ads love nothing more than taking a song that was pretty gloomy in the first place - their 2011 advert featured a cover of The Smiths’ classic Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want, for example - and glooming it up considerably, typically by slowing it down and stripping it back.

Obviously, much of this has to do with the feel of the respective adverts - you can hardly expect a penguin to look forlornly for love while Bisbal is belting away in the background. But there’s more to it than that.

You see, the British are typically pretty reserved. And that means we don’t dance (or not until we’ve had considerably more to drink than one glass of cava). By extension, then, an advert featuring some very artful dancing makes us feel a little hot under the collar, reminding us of the awful time at the 2009 office Christmas party when we had one too many eggnogs and hit the dance floor with Steve from accounts. Never again, we think. 

The John Lewis music, on the other hand, offers the British the opportunity to swan around looking a little gloomy in the vague hope that someone will ask us if we’re OK, which is something in which we lead the world. And all the more so at Christmas.

3) No sex please, we’re British

The Freixenet adverts are, let’s face it, more than a little saucy. Their 1990 advert, which starred Christopher Reeve and Ines Sastre, featured the top being taken off a bottle of cava and bubbles spewing suggestively all over the place in a way I would hesitate to show to my children, while the 2001 spot with Penélope Cruz features her flying around mounted on a Freixenet bottle like an AC/DC video from the 80s.

And why the hell not? After all, it’s Christmas. 

In the John Lewis ads, by contrast, the closest we get to a bit of festive nookie is a very chaste penguin kiss, which is further removed from the business of reproduction by the subsequent reveal that both penguins are only cuddly toys.

And that is what makes it so very, very British. I’m not saying that the British are afraid of sex, necessarily. But bedroom affairs are typically kept quite under covers and out of harm’s way, in a way that the Spanish aren’t so fussed about. That makes putting sexual innuendo into adverts a risky business in Britain, unless blunted with a certain degree of humour. 

Provocative bottle popping, as a result, has no place in British adverts, Christmas or not. Because who wants to see THAT when gathered in awkward silence around a television in Manchester with your grandparents, waiting for the Bond film to start after Christmas lunch? Far better a heartwarming penguin, that you and your grans can both smile drunkenly at.

4) An Englishman’s best friend is his dog / penguin / cat / bear. Especially at Christmas

What the John Lewis ads lack in sex, they more than make up for in fluffy animals. This year we have Monty the penguin, while last year’s ad had a bear, a hare (best friends of course) and a whole woodland menagerie of animals. 

The British are famed as a nation of pet lovers and there is little guaranteed more to pull the heart / purse strings than appealing to our love of cute little bunnies (or some such). And this goes double at Christmas, when the British apparently spend more money on presents for their pets than their partners. (Spaniards - if you’re going to a British house for Christmas, take a present for the pet. Seriously. And don’t try to move Fido from his prize place on the sofa just because you want to watch TV). 

John Lewis - or more probably their advertising agency - know this and they use this weakness to prize open our wallets with deadly efficiency. 

Freixenet - if you want to crack the UK, then replace Bisbal with a load of spaniels, and make Valverde cuddle up to a kitten.

5) Politics and Christmas don’t mix for Brits

There’s a saying in Britain that you should never talk about politics and religion in polite company, for fear of offending someone. At Christmas - a fractious affair at the best of time - this is even more important, if you don’t want to end up with the strange uncle glaring at you over the Brussel sprouts, because you happened to suggest that Alex Salmond might have a point over devolution. Nothing but nothing, then, is less typically John Lewis than a political message inserted bluntly into a Christmas advert.  

The Spanish care little for such niceties, though. In fact, most of the time in Spain your party is considered an abject failure if it doesn’t descend into furious voice raising and political point scoring, in a way that makes the average British onlooker wish they had never been born.

So if Freixenet - a Catalan firm, of course - want to stick a rather unsubtle anti-independence nudge into their 2014 Christmas advert, celebrating “the next 100 years together”, then why shouldn’t they? 

That noise you can hear all around the Iberian peninsula is Catalans and Spaniards getting ready for a really juicy political argument over the Christmas cava. Britons, meanwhile, are left to dream of fluffy penguins.

And such is the British Christmas dream.

Put Down Orwell and Pick Up Contemporary Spanish Literature

Por: | 01 de diciembre de 2014

A small publishing house in Madrid is hard at work changing perceptions of Spain abroad. Hispabooks, set up by two English-speaking Spanish editors, published seven contemporary works of translated Spanish literary fiction last year.  These works, diverse in their style and content, are challenging the stereotype of modern Spain.  The Anglocentric reading of Spain as an exotic, balmy, bull-fighting, jamon-eating land is shifting, as topical books by innovative Spanish writers are made available.Antón-Mallick

Only 3% of books in the global English publishing market are works of translation, leaving little room for Spanish authors to tell their story of modern Spain.  The millions of English-speakers that travel through the country ever year, and the thousands that are not quite there yet with Castellano, but live somewhere on the Iberian Peninsula would find this publisher a useful and eye-opening resource.  Spanish speakers are presented with a much bigger opportunity to read contemporary English fiction however, with 30% of the Spanish book market featuring translated works.

Historical English texts that tell a dated story of Spain, like Orwell and Hemingway, remain extremely popular with English-speakers, and works in Spanish that have been translated are by no means unpopular: Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zufón is an international bestseller, and the archetypal Spanish text of Don Quixote continues to be printed.  While Orwell and Hemingway still sell, the question is raised, how much of an insight will they give a reader of contemporary Spain, and will a mystery novel, like Shadow of the Wind, a work of genre, be any more revealing for the reader?

Contemporary Spanish art is popular:  The Guggenheim in Bilbao, the MACBA in Barcelona, the IVAM in Valencia.  Contemporary Spanish film too:  Almodóvar is screened all across Europe; but how much contemporary Spanish literature is read?

Established just three years ago in 2011, Hispabooks is aiming to beat its previous output and publish eight works of literary fiction next year. “The books we publish reflect the present society right now,” director Ana Perez tells me.  “Both in the style of language – even if it’s a translation – and the situations.  They include normal people with personal issues that I think indeed give you an insight into the way Spanish society is nowadays.”

And why wouldn’t they?  After all, Hispabooks have published the Stein Report by Jose Carlos Llop, a short novel set in on the island of Majorca in the 1960s, about a newcomer throwing a small community off balance as he unveils unanswered questions of their own past – a particularly modern Spanish story.   There is also the refreshing and sharp Anton Mallick Wants to be Happy, by Nicolas Casariego, a tragic comedy with poignant humour that weaves different narrative forms – journal, narrative reflection, and witty comments from self-help books; a fragmented narrative for an increasingly fragmented Spain.


Regardless to say, the novels have done well domestically.   Hispabooks published Marcos Giralt Torrente’s Paris this year.  Torrente is a well-decorated Spanish writer - he won Spain’s national fiction award in 2011 for his book Tiempo de VidaParis is about a man’s journey through his memories.   A narrative that again delves back in time and uncovers old family secrets that turns his world upside down.

Apart from forgotten pasts and repressed memories, what marks many of these contemporary works of Spanish fiction is humour; so much so that last week the prestigious London Review of Books in Bloomsbury, hosted the event “Humour in Spanish Fiction” with Hispabooks authors Nicolás Casariego and Pedro Zarraluki with their translators Nick Caistor, Lorenza García and Thomas Bunstead.

Literature post-Franco in Spain has blossomed. “Creativity and high-literary writing,” Ana tells me, mark this growth.  “The generation before them – Mendoza and so on – they still have a very strong Spanish feeling, but I now think contemporary writers are out of this period.  They are very creative and their references are really very global.”

TheFaintHeartedBolshevikCoverHispabooks also publish the modern classic, The Faint-hearted Bolshevik by Lorenzo Silva, a short novel about a driver in a traffic jam on his way to work who, when distracted, slams into the car in front.  “When the woman driving the other car reacts with a torrent of abuse out of all proportion to the incident,” so reads the blurb, “the driver cracks and decides to teach her a lesson, by dedicating his whole summer to ruining this foul woman’s life.” It is when he meets her daughter and his plans begin to alter.

These contemporary works of fictions get you closer to a nation that has changed so much so recently than older historical Anglocentric texts or genre fiction translated from Spanish.  To hark back to admittedly some of the greatest English-speaking writers, is to miss out on understanding the vast changes Spain has undergone – the end of self-censorship, the transition to democracy, the forgotten recent past.  Hispabooks are giving a voice to award-winning, innovative and pioneering Spanish writers, allowing them to construct their own identity in the English-reading world. These works let you get a little bit closer, as a non-native, to what really is going on in Spain, what the country is really thinking.


El País

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