And so, to follow up on the previous post and take up Vida’s challenge to do something about the fact that ‘the numbers of articles and reviews simply don’t reflect how many women are actually writing‘, here are my suggestions for 10 contemporary Spanish women fiction writers to watch. I’m not claiming they’re the ‘best’ or ‘most important’ (cf: Stothard, quoted in the Guardian), but they’re writers I enjoy, and I think have something to say. Some are younger, some are older, some are well known and others not, and one or two of them are even sometimes translated into English. So … in alphabetical order by first name, here goes (links are to official homepages where available):
Almudena Grandes. Author of erotic classic, Las edades de Lulú, now embarked on monster civil war trilogy, of which first two volumes, Corazón helado and Inés y la alegría have been published so far.
Almudena Solana. Galician-born, writes in Spanish. Her first novel, El curriculum de Aurora Ortiz, was a success in David Frye’s English translation, The Curriculum Vitae of Aurora Ortiz (2005). I love her second novel, Las mujeres inglesas destrozan los tacones al andar (2007; English Women Ruin their Heels Walking), which is about Louise/Louisa, daughter of Galician emigrants in London, and her struggle to be considered ‘an English girl like any other.’ It’s funny and charming, and has serious things to say about the ‘1.5 generation’ of children forced to emigrate in their parents’ wake.
Elena Moya Pereira. I’ve mentioned The Olive Groves of Belchite here before. Moya is a Catalan-speaker from Tarragona who wrote her first novel in English, for which she has my utmost admiration, quite apart from the quality of the novel itself, which is an intriguing combination of historical reflection, social observation, family saga, and lesbian love story. Review coming here soon!
Esther Tusquets. One of the ‘grandes dames’ of Spanish literature. Her El mismo mar de todos los veranos (1978; The Same Sea as Every Summer) is justly celebrated as a great, experimental novel jam packed with intertexts and lyrical almost to a fault. I love her autobiography too; the first volume, Habiamos ganado la guerra (2007; We Had Won the War) is an honest account of growing up part of the Franco-supporting Catalan bourgeoisie.
Julia Navarro. She’s one of Spain’s bestselling novelists , and I’m going to let her website, which is quite charming, speak for itself: ‘Julia Navarro has captivated three and a half million readers with her novels, essential in any library. Her books have been written with passion, with historical rigor and loads of adventure. Julia’s premises are clear: she tries not to ever bore the reader. The success of her three books: The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud,The Bible of Clay and The Blood of the Innocent has been an editorial happening surpassing frontiers and culminating in the publication of her fourth novel [Dime quién soy / Tell me who I am].’
Luisa Castro. Another Galician-born writer, whose Spanish-language novels tend to riff on her own life. My favourite is Viajes con mi padre (2003, Travels With my Father), about an aspiring writer growing up in a Galician fishing village, which reflects on the stories we tell about ourselves, our families, and our place in the world. The relationship between the narrator and her very different parents is a joy to read.
María Reimóndez. Galician feminist writer, translator and activist, who writes for adults and for children. Her second novel O club da calceta (2006, The Knitting Club) was adapted for cinema, and is now in its sixth edition, which is pretty rare for a Galician novel. She’s since published Pirata (2009, Pirate) to great acclaim. Spiky, committed, and highly original.
Marta Rivera de la Cruz. One more Galician-born writer whose novels are in Spanish, Rivera de la Cruz has gone on record to defend her right to consider herself a Galician writer. The quirky, colourful Hotel Almirante (2002; Admiral Hotel) and the more reflective Tiempo de prodigios (2006, Time of Miracles), both use Rivera’s fictional Galician town of Ribanova (Lugo) as a space for pondering the different ways in which the past – ours and other people’s – can influence the shape of our lives in the present.
Rosa Montero. Another ‘grande dame’ of Spanish literature, Montero made her name as one of the leading literary chroniclers of Spain’s headlong rush for democracy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She hasn’t always been welcomed by the establishment (I remember a middle-aged male professor of mine almost apoplectic at the suggestion we might include ‘bloody Rosa Montero’ on our creaking undergraduate curriculum), but her work stands as an important record of the ways women and men responded to Spain’s rapidly-changing social norms during the 1980s. More recently, I loved Historia del rey transparente (2005; Story of the Transparent King), which follows a medieval peasant woman, Leola, as she disguises herself as a man and dives headlong into the mystical and often dangerous world of troubadouresque France.
So there we are – as you can see, there’s a preponderance of Spanish and Galician writers (albeit mostly Galicians who write in Spanish, which is a whole other question…). To my shame, I dont’ read in Catalan or Basque, but I would love to hear suggestions for Catalan or Basque-language female authors who might just make their way onto a future iteration of this list. Which contemporary Spanish female authors would make it into your top ten??!