The Festival of Queer Spanish Literature in London was founded in 2021 by Jorge Gárriz of Romancero Books, and each year since it has brought together queer Spanish writers to share their work with a British audience. This year from the 22nd to the 26th of November the third edition of the festival took place and was a fantastic celebration of queer Spanish literature across the generations. Organised once again by the wonderful Jorge Gárriz, it was supported by the Office for Cultural and Scientific Affairs of the Spanish Embassy in London and Acción Cultural Española AC/E with their programme, PICE. The European Literature Network is proud to have been involved as a social partner.
The inaugural event took place in none other than the Spanish Embassy, where author Elizabeth Duval was invited to speak about the translation into English of her novel Madrid Will Be Their Tomb. As the translator of this book, I was also invited to speak alongside Jorge and Elizabeth. It was a fantastic evening, which saw the Spanish Embassy filled will editors, journalists, and literature lovers to listen to Elizabeth talk about the creation of her book, the important ideas within it and the questions it raises. It was the perfect way to kick off a week celebrating queer writing from Spain. A full recording of the event is available to watch on the Romancero Books Instagram page: @romancerobooks.
The following evening the festival headed over to the Instituto Cervantes for a conference led by Dr Javier Cuevas del Barrio, entitled ‘Cruising Torremolinos. Bodies, territory, and memory’. Javier spoke about his research project that explores how Torremolinos (a city on the Spanish Mediterranean coast) has acted as a destination for the LGBTQ+ community in recent decades, and examines its role in the creation of the gay liberation movement in Spain. You can read more about this fascinating interdisciplinary project, which studies the history of art and architecture, history, cinema, artistic practices, visual culture studies and translation, here.
Friday saw a poetry recital at The Common Press Bookshop, where Hasier Larretxea read from Hijos del peligro, Juan De Salas from Los Reales Sitios, Leticia Ybarra from Fantasmita eres pegamento, Rodrigo García Marina from Los Prodigiosos gatos monteses, and Alejandro Simón Partal from Ese de anoche. In giving these fresh voices space, the festival offered a small glimpse into the poetry being written by a new generation of queer poets from Spain. These readings were followed by the launch of Diario de una guardavidas by the Chilean writer Natalia Figueroa, ‘a book about care; about observing, admiring and protecting the freedom of others’, (Publisher’s Blurb, Mandolina Libros). Finally, this evening packed full of literary delights celebrated the launch of the novel Tan jóvenes y la pena by Millanes Rivas, a book that questions what it means to live in the face of uncertainty, and explores youth and identity. It was fantastic to see this medley of voices, their stories, poems, and their art, come together in one space that celebrated queer literature from many different angles.
On Saturday the festival headed to Foyles Charing Cross Road for a very special event that celebrated Ocaña. El eterno brillo del Sol de Cantillana, a study of one of the most prominent artists of the Catalan counterculture of the late 1990s. Jorge Gárriz was joined by the editor, Carlos Barea, and the directors of the publishing house Dos bigotes, Alberto Rodríguez y Gonzalo Izquierdo, to speak about the publication of this very important collective volume, which, on the fortieth anniversary of his death, attempts to answer why José Pérez Ocañacontinues to inspire. This multidisciplinary look at his life and work brings together a large team of authors to shed light on a character about whom much has been said, but little has been written, investigating Ocaña’s work and everything that surrounded him. After hearing from many young, new voices at the festival, it was wonderful to hear about a pioneer of Spanish queer culture, a pioneer who paved the way for the incredible voices we are reading today.
On Saturday evening, the festival celebrated the launch of the latest edition of KINK, an iconic magazine among the Spanish LGBTQ+ community. The photographers and editors, Paco and Manolo, joined Jorge in conversation about the latest issue, in which they also discussed the transcendence and importance of the publication in Spanish and Catalan queer culture from the late 1990s to the present day.
Finally, on the Sunday, the festival presented the award-winning poet and author Sara Torres’ debut novel, Lo que hay, along with visual artist Jaime del Fresno, at The Common Press Bookshop. This beautiful, disquieting story combines lyricism and honesty to navigate grief, the search for love and desire, and their subsequent loss. The result of the journey is a map of the cracks that make us human; an invitation to fearlessly caress the furrows that shape us. Hearing Sara talk about the process of writing her first novel was the perfect ending to a wonderful five days of events.
It goes without saying that the III Festival of Queer Spanish Literature in London was a huge success: an incredible, and important, celebration of queer Spanish literature. Not only did the festival bring attention to a new generation of Spanish LGBTQ+ writers, giving space to new voices writing exciting, challenging and important works, but it also highlighted the roots of queer writing, and supported the reclamation of writers who were once subject to censorship and suppression. The five days of the festival created a special space for literature lovers to enjoy hearing from queer writers and poets, but it was also a space in which connections were built between British readers and queer literature from Spain – connections that are becoming more and more essential. Bring on the fourth edition!
By Alice Banks (aka ‘La Española’)
Alice Banks is a creative and literary translator from French and Spanish based in Madrid. After studying the MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia, Alice began working with the European Literature Network as an Editorial Assistant. She also volunteers as a copy editor for Asymptote Journal and is a publishing assistant at Fum d’Estampa Press.
Read previous posts in La Española series: