By far one of the best reasons for studying the Spanish language is the vast amount of literature that exists in this language. Of course, translations of important works will always exist, but let’s face it — reading a novel in the original language has no substitute. As much as a translator works to produce a rendition faithful to that of the original, he will always fall short. Just a mere glimpse at the many different legitimate English translations of Cervantes’ masterpiece Don Quijote de la Mancha will reveal the many possible spins that can be put only on the opening sentence of the novel. From Cervantes forward, Spanish-language publications have seen an incredible amount of authors from all over the Spanish-speaking world. Today we would like to take a look at some works by authors from Madrid.
As one might imagine, Cervantes himself was actually born in Alcalá de Henares, which nowadays forms part of the Comunidad de Madrid, the federal district which surrounds the capital and one of Spain’s seventeen autonomous regions. It is there in Alcalá where the country’s most celebrated writer’s house can be visited and where the main square of the historic center — Plaza Cervantes — bears his name. Born in 1457, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra led a rather interesting life, not only as a writer, but also as a soldier, having even spent time as a prisoner in Algeria. Cervantes moved around quite a bit, living in several Spanish cities, such as Madrid, Valencia, Valladolid, as well as foreign cities, such as Lisbon and Rome. His masterpiece, Don Quijote de la Mancha, the first part of which was published in 1605, is considered by many to be the first modern novel. Furthermore, it is said to have been published and translated more times than any other book in history, except the Bible. Due to such significance, el Quijote is a must read when it comes to Spanish literature. Despite being difficult to read, there are many more modern versions which make the task of reading it somewhat less daunting.
Tomorrow in the battle think of me…
A much more modern author from Madrid is none other than Javier Marías. Born in 1951, Marías, in addition to being a writer, is also a university professor, translator, publisher, and member of the Real Academia Española. The son of a philosopher and a writer, naturally, Marías was exposed to the concept from an early age. He has lived abroad, both in the United States and England, where he occupied a position as a professor at Oxford. Javier Marías also has the distinction of being a ‘king’, as he was named monarch of the micronation Redonda, a fictitious kingdom of the eponymous uninhabited Caribbean island. Located more closely to Montserrat, Redonda is currently a dependency of Antigua and Barbuda. Since receiving his title, Marías has granted nobility titles to various personalities such as Pedro Almodóvar and Francis Ford Coppola. Regarding his writings, one of the most well-known of his novels is Mañana en la batalla piensa en mí, the title of which is taken from a line in Act V, Scene III of the Shakespeare play Richard III. This particular novel narrates the story of a man who suddenly finds himself faced with the death of a woman in illicit circumstances — both a contemporary novel and an intriguing story.
Historical Spanish Novels
Another modern author from Madrid is Almudena Grandes. Breaking into the world of literature strongly with her first novel Las edades de Lulú, Grandes has since written a number of works, some of which have been quite successful. Recently, the author has been busy writing and publishing a series of historical fiction novels entitled Episodios de una Guerra Interminable. The first of these novels was published in 2010, the second in 2012, and the most recent, Las tres bodas de Manolita, just last year. Although quite long, these novels are perfect for anyone interesting in learning about the Spanish Civil War and the period to follow afterward through works by a contemporary author.
The Possibilities Are Endless
When it comes to literature in Spanish, there are thousands upon thousands of books that are worth reading. Hopefully the ones mentioned here will be a good start into getting acquainted with Spanish literature, in particular, by authors from Madrid.