The Spanish Riveter: Highlighting the Indies by Alice Banks

Independent presses are some of the biggest champions of literature in translation, and without their dedication and unfaltering audacity, the English-language literature scene would be far less vibrant and diverse. What better way to highlight small press contributions than with a round-up of recent or forthcoming translations from Spanish languages from UK and US indie presses.

Loved Ones by Berta Dávila, translated from Galician by Jacob Rogers, 3TimesRebel Press, Forthcoming in 2023

3TimesRebel Press was founded in 2022 with the ambition of bringing often-silenced voices and themes to the forefront. The press only publishes translations of female authors who write in minority languages, thus drawing attention to literature that may be overlooked by larger publishing houses. So far, they have published literature translated from Basque and Catalan, and in summer 2023 will publish their first translation from Galician, Loved Ones, by Berta Dávila, translated by Jacob Rogers. This beautiful novel is an intimate and honest reflection on motherhood. Five years after becoming a mother, our narrator finds herself facing the decision of becoming one again. Feelings of guilt, regret and obligation invade her most intimate thoughts as she navigates this pivotal point in her life. Dávila’s prose is astute and delicate, and I’m delighted that 3TimesRebel and Jacob Rogers have come together to bring this wonderful author into English for the first time.

The Strangers by Jon Bilbao, translated from Spanish by Katie Whittemore,Dalkey Archive Press, 2023

Founded in 1984, Dalkey Archive Press is a publisher of fiction, poetry, and literary criticism and has quickly become a reference for fantastic, daring literature in translation. In February 2023, they published The Strangers by Jon Bilbao, translated by Katie Whittemore and Bilbao’s introduction to English-language readers. A couple is spending the winter on the Cantabrian coast, isolated, bored, and distant, not just in relation to the rest of the world, but also to each other. Their tense, somewhat monotonous routine is disturbed when they witness some strange lights in the sky over the village and ufologists begin to arrive, anxious to make extraterrestrial contact. From here on out, their stay becomes more unusual and more uncomfortable.

September and the Night by Maica Rafecas, translated from Catalan by Megan Berkobien and María Cristina Hall, Fum d’Estampa Press, Forthcoming in 2023

Fum d’Estampa Press was founded in 2020 to bring exciting Catalan language literature to an English-speaking audience. Though small, the press quickly established itself as an ambitious publisher of high-quality titles. And in 2022, it branched out and began to publish translations from other languages. In July 2023, they publish September and the Night, by Maica Rafeca, translated from Catalan by Megan Berkobien and María Cristina Hall. It’s a moving story about environment, family and the paths leading us back home. When Anais learns of the imminent sale of her family’s small vineyard to make way for the construction of an estate, she demands that her father refuses, in order to preserve his dignity. From here, Anais embarks on a solitary struggle that is seen as obsessive and irrational by those around her. Written in sweeping, elegant prose, September and the Night is a fable-like novel, a call to arms and a reminder of the important things in life.

My Father’s House by Karmele Jaio, translated from Spanish by Sophie Hughes and Margaret Jull Costa, Dedalus, 2023 

Founded in 1983, Dedalus is a publisher of literary fiction that has established itself as a leader in the realm of literary translation, thanks to its numerous translation collections. In early 2023 they publish My Father’s House, by Karmele Jaio, translated by Sophie Hughes and Margaret Jull Costa. A quiet, interior novel that is written from two perspectives, the first narrator is Ismael, a writer who is struggling with his next novel, and who becomes stuck in his past when his mother has an accident and he is forced to spend every afternoon taking care of his father. Our second narrator is Jasone, Ismael’s wife, who for years has acted as the first editor and proofreader for her husband’s work, and who has finally decided to begin writing for herself again, in secret. My Father’s House is a novel that speaks to the ways in which masculinity is constructed and transmitted, and the enormous influence of gender in the lives of women and men.

Let No One Sleep by Juan José Millás, translated from Spanish by Thomas Bunstead, Bellevue Literary Press, 2022 

Bellevue Literary Press is an independent US-based publisher devoted to publishing literary fiction and nonfiction at the intersection of the arts and sciences. In 2022, they published Let No One Sleep by Juan José Millás, translated by Thomas Bunstead. After the protagonist Lucía loses her job at an IT firm, she has a vision of her future career as a taxi driver, brought on by the intoxicating opera that seeps through her apartment’s air vent. After getting her licence, she meets the neighbour responsible for the music, Calaf. When he moves out of her building, Lucía becomes obsessed with finding him again and drives through Madrid searching for him on every corner, meeting intriguing people along the way. In Millás’s unique and humorous style we read of the collision of the mundane and the extraordinary, of betrayal and revenge.

The Ally by Iván Repila, translated from Spanish by Mara Faye Lethem, Other Press, 2022

Other Press is a New York-based publisher founded in 1998. They focus on literary fiction and nonfiction, and many of their titles are in translation. In 2022, they published The Ally, the latest novel from Iván Repila, translated by Mara Faye Lethem. The Ally is a humorous social commentary, in which the misguided protagonist tries to beat his girlfriend at her own game, becoming the ultimate feminist. When he first meets Najwa at a lecture by Siri Hustvedt, our protagonist discovers a whole new world of feminist thought. Determined to impress Najwa, he sets out sincerely on his journey to allyship, and he can’t help notice that feminists are going about their activism the wrong way … So he does what any good ally should: he gathers the worst of the macho men in town and begins a campaign to provoke the feminists. By ‘putting them in their place’ with this club —pelting demonstrators with raw eggs, posting obscene, threatening manifestos — he’s convinced he can make women understand, and get them to fight harder for the cause. Following him as his plan spectacularly fails, The Ally mixes humour, clever storytelling, and hard-core feminist theory to battle the macho superiority complex and our modern gender wars.

Wenling’s by Gemma Ruiz Palà, translated from Catalan by Peter Bush, Héloïse Press, 2023

Canterbury-based imprint Héloïse Press launched in 2022 and focuses on contemporary female narratives both in original English and in translation. With a focus on intimate, visceral and powerful narratives, the house brings together women’s issues and literary sophistication from across the globe. In 2023 they publish Wenling’s by Gemma Ruiz Palà, translated by Peter Bush, a novel in which female characters, both historical and fictional, find their voices. Our protagonist is Wenling, a Chinese immigrant who arrived in Barcelona six months pregnant and looking for a better life. Despite having no knowledge of the local languages, she manages to open a salon. A female space par excellence, it becomes the crossroad for many women’s stories, including Wenling’s, that have remained silenced. Intertwining journalistic precision with the casual tone of joyful conversation, Gemma Ruiz Palà immerses the reader in a story of gender, migration, and friendship.

The Volcano by Anna Dodas, translated from Catalan by Clyde Moneyhun, ed. Ester Pou Jutglar, Francis Boutle Publishers, 2022

Francis Boutle Publishers are committed to publishing texts in minority and regional European languages, with the aim of celebrating the fantastic diversity of languages and cultures in Europe and giving writers in those languages a wider audience – an important and challenging feat. In March 2022 they published The Volcano by Anna Dodas, translated by Clyde Moneyhun. This collection is particularly poignant as it brings together the brilliant work of the Catalan poet Anna Dodas, who died at the age of twenty-three in 1986. In her lifetime, Dodas wrote two remarkable and increasingly influential collections, presented together in this volume, along with a selection of uncollected poems. The Volcano communicates, with terrible urgency, both pain and wonder, mystery and clarity, and love and dread. Dodas’ imagery creates a completely realised poetic world that is an analogue to the poet’s lived experience.

Alice Banks

Alice Banks writes the La Española blog on

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