Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15)

Around the beginning of September, I received an e-mail from Larry Dignan, at Online college Courses, stating that they would like to share an article “50 great Hispanic Novels Every Student should read” they had posted on their site for Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15). Now, to be honest I had not heard of this, so a quick bit of wiki research and I learnt Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States is the period when people recognize the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the United States and to celebrate Hispanic Cultural heritage and Hispanic culture.

September 15 was chosen as the starting point for the celebration because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. They all declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21, respectively. Hispanic Heritage Month also celebrates the long and important presence of Hispanic Americans in North America. Armed with this knowledge I starting scanning some of the books in the list and rapidly came to the conclusion that apart from some of my favourite writers, “this was a collection of some of the greatest writers in history. Hailing from South and Central America, Spain, the Caribbean and the United States alike, they offer insights not only into Hispanic traditions and norms, but some issues central to humanity itself — like time, love, mortality, passion and personal identity”.

On the website they’ve collected 50 books  to help you start your exploration of Hispanic literature. Whether you’re a college student majoring in Latin American studies, Spanish or something else entirely, this is a great collection of novels,- of which I’ve posted 1 – 20 from the list, check them out; pick one up and celebrate

Spain

There would be no Hispanic literature without Spain, so here are some of its best novels.

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1. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

  1. Hapless Alonso Quixano is an aging man, obsessed with books on chivalry. As he delves further into them, losing sleep and his sanity, he embarks on his own quests as a knight. A title that frequently tops list of best novels ever written, it’s a must-read for any college student.

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2.Three Exemplary Novels by Miguel de Unamuno

Not a novel proper, but a series of shorter novellas, this work is perhaps one of the best written by the Spanish novelist, philosopher and playwright. Don’t skip the prologue, as many feel it is the best part.

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3.The Family of Pascual Duarte by Camilo Jose Cela

Written in 1942 by Nobel Laureate Cela, this book caused an uproar when it was released and subsequently ended up banned. Why? The novel was part of the tremendismogenre, which is marked by extended and frequent violent scenes. Not for the faint of heart, it is nonetheless a great work of literature.

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4.The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This bestselling novel is set in post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona and focuses on a young boy who becomes entranced by a book he finds in a secret, old library. This leads him to seek more works by its enigmatic author — with interesting results.

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5.All Souls by Javier Marias

  1. At first glance, this novel appears to be about nothing much at all — no murder, no intrigue — yet for the careful reader, all of these elements are bound up in the subtle prose. While fiction, it caused uproar at Oxford and Cambridge, as many professors thought the characters had been based on them.

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6.A Heart So White by Javier Marias

With a title drawn from Macbeth, this ambitious novel chronicles the life of Juan, who is struggling to both understand and hide the past (his own and his father’s) from himself.

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7.The Rats by Miguel Delibes

  1. A leading literary figure in Spain after the Civil War, Delibes’ work made a splash both in his native Spain and abroad. One of his literary masterpieces, The Rats, builds a story around small autobiographical anecdotes surrounding a small Castilian village that has disappeared.

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8.The Innocent Saints by Miguel Dilibes

Sometimes translated as The Holy Innocents, this 1981 novel follows the destruction of a rural Spanish family who suffer under caciques — ruthless local leaders who use their power to sway politics in their favour.

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9.Bartleby & Co. by Enrique Vila-Matas

Drawing on characters like Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener, this novel addresses some big questions in literature and life alike. Told through the point of view of a hunchback who himself cannot write, this award-winner is a great choice for any student of literature.

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10.Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones

Falcones isn’t a novelist by profession — he’s actually a high-profile lawyer — but you wouldn’t know it by reading this. Set in 14th century Barcelona at the height of the Inquisition, it traces the building of the Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral and the life of one young boy as he grows into a man during those tumultuous times.

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11.Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas

Blending real life with imagination, this novel follows a political prisoner during the Spanish Civil War. He survives through miraculous circumstances, and his story is told through the lens of a modern-day journalist investigating his life.

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12.Time of Silence  by Luis Martin Santos

Spanish psychiatrist and writer Santos rose to fame with the release of this novel, considered one of the 20th Century’s greatest Spanish novels. It draws heavily on the literary devices employed by James Joyce, like stream of consciousness and interior monologues, to tell the story of a doctor accused of killing a woman who dies while he tries to help her. With sex and death central to the novel, it was considered racy in 1962 and ended up censored. It was not put out in full until almost 20 years later.

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13.A Manuscript of Ashes by Antonio Munoz Molina

Part history, part mystery and part love story, A Manuscript of Ashes follows a young man who goes into hiding in his uncle’s country home to escape Franco’s police. There, he discovers a steamy love triangle, a murder and, potentially, a literary masterpiece.

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14.The City of Marvels by Eduardo Mendoza

Written in the picaresque style, The City of Marvels combines fantasy and history to vividly paint Barcelona at the turn of the century, caught between two disastrous World’s Fairs. At the centre of the novel is Onofre Bouvila, an unscrupulous young man who dives headfirst into the city’s seamy underbelly.

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15.The Life Story of the Swindler called Don Pablos by Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas

 

Perhaps more often referred to as El Buscon, this picaresque novel was written around 1600 and takes a satirical look at Spanish life, following a swindler who wants to learn and become both virtuous and a gentleman.

 

 

 

 

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16.Usurpers by Franscisco Ayala

This classic book contains seven short stories that focus on the theme of power, often in a highly negative and cautionary manner, with characters alluding to real-life figures.

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17.Nada by Carmen LaForet

Sent to live with her crazy (not in the charming sense) relatives in post-Civil War Barcelona, the young girl at the heart of this novel is weighed down by more than just her family. The oppressive politics of the time, which, while never mentioned directly, are always looming in the background.

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Argentina

Argentine authors have produced some amazing works of literature. Here are just a few you should be sure to check out.

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18.Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

While this is not a novel, but a collection of short stories, we couldn’t leave it off this list of great Hispanic literature. Ficciones is not an easy read, but well worth the effort to learn more about one of the 20th century’s greatest writers.

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19.Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig

  1. The name might be familiar to you through the Broadway production based on the novel. The book is almost entirely a dialogue, with no indication of who is speaking, and multiple plots and subplots can make it a challenging read, but the story at its heart makes it all worthwhile.

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20.Artificial Respiration by Ricardo Piglia

Delving into complex issues of philosophy and political history, this book has been called one of the most important works of Latin American literature to come out in the past few decades.

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For the rest of this list (20 – 50) check out -  50 Great Hispanic Novels Every Student Should Read at the online college courses site. Then state your favourites, or  find some new ones.

Also for those interested, here’s a post I have written about a couple of books dealing with the subject of Spanish literature, the first book is Oxford University press’s VSI Spanish  Literature, which is a handy guide on the subject and the second is Granta’s The best Of Young Spanish Language Novelists, which offers an introduction to new writers - From Andres Barba (Spain) to Alejandro Zambra (Chile), this is a great collection of stories.

 

Have You read any of these, is so which ones would you recommend?

13 comments:

farmlanebooks said...

What a fantastic list! The only one I've read is Shadow of the Wind, but Cathedral at the Sea is near the top of my stacks. *heads off to investigate a few of the other titles I haven't heard of*

wecallupon said...

er puig is always worth reading as is Cercas and Don Quixote ,I got this e mail and thought it was a phishing one lol ,I ve the Unamuno on my tbr pile Gary great list ,all the best stu

parrish lantern said...

Hi Jackie, I have Carlos Ruiz Zafon's book on my shelf & Falcones's also appeals, but then so do a lot of them, Oh well off to Bookmooch to add to my wishlist.

Hi Stu, not visited from the Nick cave Blog for awhile. Yes have read Cervantes work & Javier Cercas's book looks interesting, also interested in Three Exemplary Novels by Miguel de Unamuno, sounds appealing.
PS. Had the same worry concerning the E-mail, so checked it out online & loads of people got the E-mail & posted the link, I just thought it would be more fun & interesting (for me at least)to put a few of the books, with a bit more detail about the Hispanic Heritage month (thanks Wiki) & then link it to an earlier post I did on Spanish lit.

Lu @ Regular Rumination said...

El Buscón! I can't imagine reading that one in English. The hardest semester of my entire higher education was the semester we studied El Buscón and every other Picaresque novel. For Spanish authors I also suggest Jorge Semprún.

Lu @ Regular Rumination said...

Also, The President by Miguel Ángel Asturias is very good, but the English translation (the one pictured on the list) is horrendous! It's one of the worst translations I've ever read.

Bellezza said...

I really disliked Shadow of The Wind, which I actually read twice (once for self, a second time round for book club as I wanted to refresh myself). It had a fabulous premise, but because so convoluted I couldn't stand it although I'm in a great minority here. ("Bellezza, part of one?")

Have always wanted to read Don Quixote, and would be interested in reading that with you some day after I read 1Q84 and Parallel Stories for which I've reserved October.

parrish lantern said...

Hi Lu, thanks for the warning & recommendation, I was surprised there was no Alberto Manguel, I know he considers himself Canadian but he was born in Argentina.

Hi Bellezza, Quixote is one of the few books n this list I've read, altho would consider another at some point, if there's a suggestion you have.

Rise said...

Have read 11 from the 50, mostly from Spain. A great list, I agree, save for the inclusion of Paulo Coelho. A major omission is Juan Rulfo (Pedro Paramo).

parrish lantern said...

Hello Rise, I have a Coehlo (The Zahir) sat on a pile of books TBR, thanks for the recommendation of Rulfo

Chrisbookarama said...

The Shadow of the Wind is one of my favorite books. It is a little strange but that's what I liked about it.

parrish lantern said...

Hi Chris, it's on my shelf at the moment, It's a book that seems to divide people, making it that extra bit interesting.

kinnareads said...

I've read 11 out of the 50. I would have liked to see more women, like Rosario Castellanos and Gionconda Belli. A most glaring omission: Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo. Most unfortunate. Thanks for alerting me to Hispanic Month. I will celebrate and post a review. Thanks.

parrish lantern said...

Yes I noticed the overwhelming male presence, so thanks for the recommendations, will check out your review when it's up, thanks.