Of airports, airport bookshops, and libros de oro (yes, I’m in Spain!)

Los pilares de la tierra

Un mundo sin finUn món sense fiStuart was right Ken Follett is huge in Spain, or, more specifically, Pillars of the Earth and the long-awaited sequel World Without End are monster!!! Since it was Barcelona airport I was passing through this morning on my travels, I was intrigued to see Los pilares de la tierra and Mundo sin fin in the airport bookshop alongside Els pilars de la terra and Un món sense fi, and especially to see how the covers compared between the different language versions.* 

Portada de Dime quien soyEven more interesting, however (it was a long layover 🙂 ) was how the Spanish and Catalan versions of Julia Navarro’s Dime quién soy / Digue’m qui sóc were marketed – the two editions are identical, with the same La-Sombra-del-viento-esque cover illustration, except that the Spanish one is in a red colourway and the Catalan one is blue. Fascinating! (like I said, it was a long layover … ) I think there’s a lot to be said about the differential marketing of individual bestsellers in the different languages of Spain – IIRC, it’s not often that the two editions are so carefully calibrated, though it obviously helps that both Navarro’s Spanish and Catalan versions are by the same publisher, Plaza & Janes.

I know I’ve written here before about how historical fiction, especially with a crypto-mystico-gothic or spiritual dimension, is so huge in Spain at the moment, but standing in front of the window displays in Barcelona airport bookshop really brought it home to me just how huge – there was virtually nothing else on display at all. Which is great if you’re like me and can’t get enough of this stuff, but less good, perhaps, for those with more varied tastes. Can anybody recommend any good studies (academic or journalistic) about just why this kind of historical fiction seems to have captured the zeitgeist? I have a couple of theories of my own, mostly to do with the recuperation of vanished transnational histories and geographies, but I’m anxious for more perspectives…

Am now in Galicia for a flying visit, and hoping the Vigo airport bookshop (such as it is…) will provide some additional evidence when I pass back through on Wednesday. Before then, though, I have five libros de oro (visitor books for the spa at Mondariz, where I am currently in residence) to look through, in which I am very hopeful of finding at least one signature from our old friend Rachel Challice.

* Take a look at Follett’s website to get a sense of which aesthetic elements travel across languages and which are reinvented for different versions.


  1. No theories here, but having just finished “El violinista de Mauthausen,” I’m working on some similar questions. Hope we can share thoughts over coffee sometime!

    1. Most, definitely, Sara!!! (and btw, do you recommend ‘Violinista’?!)

  2. Well, it’s certainly an enthralling read, if not a masterly work of literature!

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