The best of the year The 10 best books of the year in Spanish: the luxury of good variety

Surprises and consecrations make up the record of narrative in Spanish that the critics of La Lectura have drawn up in this second year of the magazine

The best of the year The 10 best books of the year in Spanish: the luxury of good variety

Surprises and consecrations make up the record of narrative in Spanish that the critics of La Lectura have drawn up in this second year of the magazine. As the lists are always unfair, along with these names there could have been those of Jon Bilbao, Diego Sánchez Aguilar, Irene Solà, María José Navia, Álvaro Pombo or Mar García Puig.

Six Barral. 704 pages. €22.90 Ebook: €9.99 You can buy it here.

"Ignacio Martínez de Pisón (Zaragoza, 1960) is definitely the active Spanish novelist who, with more seriousness, depth and talent, is reconstructing different moments in recent Spanish history." This is how resounding Juan Marqués was in his review of Castles of Fire, an impressive novel, with nineteenth-century ambition and impeccable craftsmanship, about the unfortunate city that was Madrid between 1939 and 1945.

In the exact years in which the world was fighting in the Second World War, in Madrid people were hungry and food was trafficked, there was conspiring in taverns and torture in police stations, people shouted in the streets and remained silent in their homes. . As is usual in Martínez de Pisón's literature, the protagonists are simple people faced with extraordinary events, pure survival.

"Perhaps its magnetic power comes from the ability it has to make us recognize ourselves in it, to know that things were like that and that there are those who tell them to us not only with respect for reality, but for the readers, without falling into Manicheanism. , fanaticism or ideology. Pisón places himself here at the service of a very broad, very broad and very deep truth that explains many things that still concern us," our critic emphasized last February.

Random House. 432 pages. €21.90 Ebook: €9.99 You can buy it here.

"What makes Ladies, Gentlemen and Planets different from any other story book is that in addition to a prologue and an acknowledgment chapter that is worth reading at the beginning, each story is preceded by a brief text that explains its genesis, its sources and tributes, and slips connections with other stories and novels by Fernández. Here everything is connected, we are in the fascinating imaginary world of Laura Fernández (Terrassa, 1981)", stated Aloma Rodríguez in her criticism of this wonderful universe unique in literature in Spanish. "Come on, reader, enjoy, peck, jump, go from one planet to another, and remember that each story is 'a world within a world that explores itself.'"

Peripheral. 256 pages. €18.50 Ebook: €11.99 You can buy it here.

Until this transparent Pilgrim, Juan Cárdenas (Popayán, Colombia, 1978) was the author of three dazzling novels in which the way he tried to understand, deeply and from a literary point of view, the history of his country stood out. There is a lot of that in this novel supported by the prolonged expedition with which the Chorographic Commission set out to study Colombian reality in depth in 1850, whose echoes are fully current in 2023. "All countries are fantasies, allegories. The heart of the matter is that there is no outside of the fantasy. There is no way to get out of it. What there is, in any case, are thresholds through which a transparent pilgrim could cross from one fantasy to the other," Juan Marqués pointed out in his criticism.

Random House. 144 pages. €17.90 Ebook: €7.99 You can buy it here.

"Adriana's Voices is a novel with and not about death because it not only talks about how some characters face the proximity of their own death, but also about how the living relate to those who are no longer here," reflected Aloma Rodríguez. in his criticism. Written with a sober and fluid style, this novel by Elvira Navarro (Huelva, 1978), her best work to date, does not seek to be accommodating to the reader, but rather to encircle death, while touching on themes that have been appearing. in his books: loneliness, deterioration, job and sentimental precariousness, childhood and how to tell it without sugarcoating it. At the same time, he defended our criticism, "answering a question that appears at the end of the first part: 'How far do the dead accompany us?'"

Anagram. 400 pages €21.90 Ebook: €12.99 You can buy it here.

"Literature is one of the few human arts that navigates between reason and delirium," Benjamín Labatut (Rotterdam, 1980) explained to this supplement following this novel completely different from any other. After the global success of A Terrible Greenness, MANIAC offers the reader a triptych whose core is the incredible and eventful life of the scientist John von Neumann, perfect for reflecting on the writer's great obsession: "What happens when a fiercely rational perspective begins to collide with the terrain of delirium, of the irrational".

In a narrative year that has not been anything to write home about (except if it is to include some of the year's awards, or to also launch several of the most uncritically vaunted titles very far away, a lot of prefabricated dissidence, a lot of commissioned rebellion, a lot of prestige inert), I really liked the new books by Juan José Millas (Sólo humo, Alfaguara), Álvaro Pombo (Santander, 1936, Anagrama), Elvira Navarro (Las Voces de Adriana, Random House), Jon Bilbao (Araña, Impedimenta), Julio José Ordovás (Punished without drawings, Ray Loriga (Any Summer is an End, Alfaguara), Jacobo Bergareche (The Farewells, Asteroid Books), Luisa Castro (Sangre de Horchata, Alfaguara), Unai Elorriaga (We Don't Hang Anyone, Galaxia Gutenberg), Elisa Victoria (Otaberra , Blackie Books), F. L. Chivite (Ferdy the Elder, Papeles Mínimos), José María Guelbenzu (Midiodía en el tiempo, Siruela) or Pablo d'Ors (Los contemplativos, Galaxia Gutenberg).

I find that the most beautiful pages of the year are at the beginning of Jara Morta (La uÑa RoTa), by Ángela Segovia, and one of the greatest joys was seeing that Arturo Pérez-Reverte has once again given his best in The final problem ( Alfaguara), a novel with insistence but well presented and resolved.

Of course, the best Spanish novel of 2023 is Castles of Fire (Seix Barral), by Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, objectively masterful, a perfectly constructed tunnel to move to a moment in our history (specifically Madrid in the 1940s) and move forward. in her understanding..., although the one that has made me enjoy the most is I gave you eyes and you looked at the darkness (Anagrama), by Irene Solà, a joyful narrative coven with which the Catalan writer confirms her spectacular talent. To complete the podium, she would propose the magnificent Those Who Listen (Candaya), by Diego Sánchez Aguilar, a powerful robotic portrait of our future.

For my part, there is no doubt that Gozo (Siruela), by Azahara Alonso, and The Story of the Vertebrates (Random House), by Mar García Puig, are the narrative debuts that deserve the most applause. Both are very personal books, novels of little fiction, and at the same time they are surprising, original, erudite, wise, very well documented and written eruptions.

As for the books that came from America, the best I read were those by Juan Cárdenas (Transparent Peregrino, Periférica), Lorena Salazar Masso (Maldeniña, Tránsito), Marina Closs (Pombero, Páginas de Espuma), María Elena Morán (Back to when, Siruela), Patricio Pron (The secret nature of the things of this world, Anagrama) and Alejandro Zambra (Children's literature, Anagrama, and A Christmas story, Gris Tormenta).

Sixth floor. 152 pages. €16.90 Ebook: €9.99 You can buy it here.

Old age, art and voluntary death are the axes of The difficult light, a novel by Tomás González (Medellín, 1950) published in 2011 and which now, after achieving enormous success throughout Latin America, Sexto Piso has recovered in Spain. Filled with emotional and serene beauty, in the words of Anna Maria Iglesia, who dealt with the book in these pages, "David's story tells how the self-absorbed artist is beaten and transformed by life. And in the end, González demonstrates that life penetrates into art, even into that which was born behind its back".

Anagram. 352 pages. €19.90 Ebook: €10.99 You can buy it here.

"The silence that prevails in the pages of The Teacher and the Beast is the silence of fear, of prejudice, of forgetfulness. It is the silence that is appropriate for those who do not want things to change, for everything to remain the same. Break that silence is to assume that everything known begins to falter and this is what Imma Monsó (Lleida, 1959) tells us here, who thus signs a superlative novel," stated Anna Maria Iglesia in her review of this tableau humain that masterfully reconstructs what it was like. Life in rural Catalonia in the 60s.

Gutenberg Galaxy. 296 pages. €22 Ebook: €13.99 You can buy it here.

An expert in literary illuminating the darkness of reality, as he demonstrated in Sacramento or Sur, Antonio Soler (Málaga, 1956) throws himself into the pool with this shocking reconstruction of the psychology of an abuser. "Written with a lean verb and extreme fixation on details as a psychopathic trait, Soler manages to sneak the reader into the mind of a mean man who observes - watches - his girlfriend," wrote our critic Adriana Bertorelli. "Reading it, it seems incredible how much progress has been made in the last five years."

Xordica. 136 pages. €13.95 You can buy it here.

"Author of diaries, poetry and novels, columnist and literary critic, the talent of Julio José Ordovás (Zaragoza, 1976) was beyond all doubt," said Aloma Rodríguez when talking about Punished without Drawings, a childhood and family memoir that works as an accountability to the child who was while recreating an era of a country. "With an ending à la Fellini in Eight and a Half, Ordovás, who is already a master of expressive enumeration, creates with this book a small gem. And the small thing is only because of the number of pages."


Yes in his hallucinatory NOF4 song, published in 2021 also by Jekyll

Making the list of the best books of the year fills me with melancholy because everything that I haven't gotten to becomes more evident: The difficult light, by Tomás González, or Castillos de fuego, by Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, are two of the books that appear on lists of the best of the year and that I haven't had time to read. I also haven't had time to read Vida de Arcadio, by Arcadi Espada. That melancholy turns into reading frustration if I think about the Spanish novels that have won prestigious awards: in general, they didn't win. The case of the Herralde Prize is perhaps the most striking: they have given a novel prize to The White Desert, by Luis López Carrasco, which is a book of short stories.

Among the debuts, there have been two that I have enjoyed enormously: Se te odene el pelo, by María José Hasta, and Consumir preferentially, by Andrea Genovart. And a delayed debutant: José Antonio Montano has published Oficio passenger, diaries written between 1989 and 1999. It is his first publication. Elvira Navarro has published a novel, Ariadna's Voices is his best book, or Eider Rodríguez. With The Teacher and the Beast, Imma Monsó signs one of the novels of the year, sharing the podium with The Basement, a posthumous work by Begoña Huertas, the last gesture of rebellion.

The 2023 National Literature Award to Cristina Fernández Cubas - the rentrée brought the reissue of El columpio, a wonderful short novel - has occurred in a year where there have been very good story books; Among my favorites are Everything we learned from the movies, by María José Navia, and Ladies, gentlemen and planets, all the stories by Laura Fernández, a galaxy-book that not only brings together the stories that make up Fernández's fictional universe, whose center is Rethrick, but also tells the motivations for each story, at what point in the exploration the writer was at when she sat down to type, as she would say. A party.

Between memory and invention is Punished without Drawings, by Julio José Ordovás, a sentimental memory of Spain since the eighties; and between memory and journalistic investigation is My German Father, by Ricardo Dudda, a book that intended to tell the relationship with his father, a quite unique character, and ends up finding something that not even his own father knew about his grandfather.

I didn't like The Naranjel Girls, by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, as much as I promised after reading The Adventures of China Iron. Regarding what has not been read, I do not lose hope: just as this year I read La comemadre, by Roque Larraquy, perhaps next year I will catch up with others. Gabriel Zaid already says it in the title of the book that was republished a few months ago: The Too Many Books. I add: Oh.