EXCHANGE OF WORDSBríd Conroy and Neil Paul with Spanish booksellers Federico and Antonio, in front of their store in Malaga.
I’m sipping tea outside in a cafe and groups of women pass me by in beautiful red ruffled flamenco dresses. No, it’s not St James in Westport, it’s southern Spain on a very hot day in August during the annual Feria de Malaga festival.
I am here as part of a bookseller exchange organized by RISE Bookselling, a network program of the International Federation of Booksellers, co-funded by the European Union. Their aim is to improve, strengthen and maximize the capacity and resilience of the European bookshop sector.
Our host was Libreria Luces, a superb independent bookstore in the heart of the city of Malaga in Andalucia. It was refreshing, uplifting and inspiring to connect across Europe as booksellers who share a passion for literature and the power of books to transform people’s lives and inform about the issues and challenges facing the world. confronted.
It was also a great opportunity to learn more about the great Spanish writers of yesteryear and the emerging writers of today.
We guess our Joyce and Dickens are known the world over, which I guess they are, but there’s a whole world of literature, history and cultural delights to be discovered by exploring beyond what we know. The following books are now on my ‘to read’ list and ‘to store’ on our bookstore list.
Emilia Pardo Bazán, who lived from 1851 to 1921, was a countess, novelist and feminist. She is known for introducing “naturalism” into Spanish literature; detailed descriptions of life from a more detached, predetermined and “scientific observation” point of view. She also introduced feminist ideas into her works and championed the right of women to be educated.
His novel ‘The House of Ulloa’ is a Penguin Classic, available in English. It tells the story of pious Father Julian Alvarez, who is sent to a remote estate to put his affairs in order, only to uncover moral decay, cruelty and corruption. Tragedy, humor and satire abound.
Another Spanish novelist, Benito Pérez Galdós, lived from 1843 to 1920. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1912 and has been compared to Dickens, Balzac and Tolstoy. His outspokenness against the Catholic Church and his favor for republicanism and later socialism caused his works to go unrecognized among the conservative classes.
His novel “Fortunata and Jacinto”, first published in 1886, tells the turbulent story of two women, their husbands and lovers, dealing with the torrid society of Madrid in the 1870s. It is also published by Penguin Classics and available in English.
‘OldLadyVoice’, by contemporary Spanish author Elisa Victoria, tells the story of nine-year-old Marina, who is sent to stay with her eccentric 72-year-old grandmother for the summer when her mother is seriously ill. The story told beautifully through the eyes of a child – insightful, intense and funny all at once. It is published by And Other Stories and translated into English by Charlotte Whittle.
‘Cervantes para cabras, Marx para ovejas’ (Cervantes for the goats, Marx for the sheep), published by Maclean y Parker, is an extremely popular novel in Spain. Written by Pablo Santiago Chiquero, it tells the story of Mateo, who works as a goat and sheep herder in Abra, a remote village in the province of Cordoba. He suffers from a period of depression and, once recovered, undertakes to win back his girlfriend, but also to have the whole village read “Quixote” by Cervantes and “Capital” by Marx. A man after my own heart! This novel is currently only available in Spanish, for our Spanish-speaking population.
And finally, while I was working in the shop, Neil paid a visit to the cemetery where Gerald Brenan, the English writer who spent most of his life in Spain, is buried. He is famous for his works, “The Spanish Labyrinth” and “South of Granada”, which highlight the dark times of the Spanish Civil War and the social unrest that followed this period.
I will end with a passage from one of his other books, ‘The Face of Spain’, published in 1950 by Penguin, in which Brenan writes to his friends about his life in Churriana, Andalusia, and his garden, where he loved “to breathe the calm and the happiness, which only the gardens of the south, bathed in perpetual sunshine, can give.
Spain has so much to offer, and I am already so looking forward to our next visit to our friends at Libreria Luces and welcoming them to Westport very soon.
Watch out for Spanish conversational and cultural evenings this month at Tertulia – A bookshop like no other, at Westport Quay. For more details, follow Tertulia on Facebook and Instagram, or visit tertuliabookshop.com.
Bríd Conroy and her husband Neil Paul run Tertulia – A bookshop like no other in The Quay, Westport.