“It’s my turn for my post about “my books”, And I think, after re-reading the interview questions, that my memories are inevitably linked to books. I grew up in a house full of all kinds of books and I learned at a very young age how important it was to open up to new worlds through reading.
Having studied Philology, I recognise that the obligatory nature of reading so many texts led me to periods of a difficult relationship with books. Because I have always thought that “reading” and “compulsory” should not be too frequent a lexical combination, although I must admit that I have discovered some of the great authors of world literature in this way, of course”.
José Luis, how did you start reading?
As a good son of the eighties, the first books I have to mention are, of course, the Choose your own adventure collection published by Timun Mas, which I devoured as a child. But I still have a collection of illustrated stories of great classics of world literature published by Galerías Preciados (yes, I’m old!). I also remember the first time I read The Neverending Story by Michael Ende and the novels of Roal Dahl, perhaps the first person I was (and still am) a big fan of.
What kind of reading do you prefer?
I mostly read novels and I like to alternate between national, Latin American, European and American authors. It depends on the moment, as is always the case with reading. On the other hand, I like to include in my readings from time to time essays on subjects I am passionate about (cinema, music, theatre or literature itself) and I recognise that I also enjoy autobiographical texts if they are well constructed. In recent months I have read quite different things and I have especially enjoyed the essay Cómo hemos cambiado (Spain’s transformation through pop culture) by Juan Sanguino (Península), a journalist and pop writer who constructs a very amusing and intelligent text to describe the decade of the nineties in Spain. Those years in which the country (like those of us who were born in the eighties) lost our innocence.
About books written in Spanish… tell us one that has had an impact on you:
I could cite many, of course, and I’m going to stick with the one I’ve liked the most this past year, A corazón abierto, by Elvira Lindo (Seix Barral). It is a novel about memory, time and family (some of my favourite literary themes); a beautiful reconstruction of her parents’ story. It’s one of those books you’d want to stay and live in.
Is there one you haven’t been able to finish reading?
In Spanish? I must say that this has never happened to me. However, curiously, it happened to me with another great book about family: The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen, but as my colleague Anna said, the reason was that it wasn’t the right book for my personal moment and, in fact, I have yet to pick it up again because I have read a couple of other novels by the author and I loved them.
Which one or two would you recommend?
I don’t know if it’s because I’m a bad reader, but this is the question I always hope not to be asked, so I’ll mention the last novel written in Spanish that I read: Cien noches, by Luisgé Martín (Anagrama), which won the Herralde Novel Prize in 2020 and raises, through the vicissitudes of its protagonists, some quite fascinating twists and turns of the human soul.
And finally, what book have you been given and which one have you given as a present this Sant Jordi?
The book I got was Noruega, by Rafael Lahuerta (Drassana), a great discovery for me, which I’m loving. It is the fictionalised memoirs of a family (again) from Valencia (my city of origin), written in beautiful Valencian, another linguistic variety within the wealth of languages that exist in Spain. I have given away Como polvo en el viento, by Leonardo Padura (Tusquets), a Cuban author who tells stories of exile. I haven’t read it, but it had been recommended to me by several people I trust, and I love to give books I don’t have or haven’t read as gifts so that I can exchange them later, make a chain and share with family and friends the beauty of the stories we read.
If you decide to read them, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did !