The Spanish Riveter: Introduction by West Camel, Editor

‘Diversity’ is a much-used (perhaps overused) term across the English-speaking world, and particularly in publishing, so I hesitated before applying it to this Spanish Riveter. But I found it unavoidable, because ‘diverse’ describes just too perfectly the length, breadth and depth of the literature that has come out of Spain in the past few decades.

This is partly a function of the fact that Spain has four officially recognised languages – Castilian (known widely as Spanish), Catalan, Basque and Galician – as well as several more languages and a wealth of dialects. But it is also the result of the great social and political changes that emerged from the country’s Transition to Democracy in the 1970s.

We at The Spanish Riveter set out to track how these changes have been reflected in the literature from Spain over the decades since the 1970s – and found, fortunately, that the authors we’ve included seemed to have done much of the job for us. Most obviously, the official recognition of the four languages in the 1970s has resulted in a flowering of writing – so that our Spotlights on Catalan, Basque and Galician could have been filled many times over, with many new translations available, and, most importantly, a wealth of translators keen to bring writing from these languages to English readers.

Castilian hasn’t suffered for this concentration on other languages – far from it. We open our magazine with tributes to two major literary figures we have recently lost – Almudena Grandes and Javier Marías – and celebrate some greats who are still with us: Enrique Vila-Matas and Javier Cercas.

Grandes is just one of many women writers we cover in the magazine. As women’s rights have improved over the past decades and feminism has come to the fore in Spain, so women writers have created a space for themselves and their work. We celebrate this not just in a section devoted to writers such as Sara Mesa and Cristina Morales, but across the whole publication.

Diversity in its most modern sense is also evident in the literature from Spain, and as our pieces on queer writing (thanks to Jorge Garriz) and on literature by people of colour (nod to Layla Benitez-James) and immigrant writers show, authors from these groups are facing their particular challenges head on, as well as celebrating their hard-won freedoms.

Children’s literature in Spain is lively and active too, as Claire Storey from WorldKidsLit demonstrates in her feature. And Barry Forshaw, our resident crime-writing expert, shows us that the genre in Spain is in good health – as is fantasy and sci-fi, according to Rachel Cordasco, who gives us a run-down of Spanish SFT (speculative fiction in translation).

Our resident poetry expert, Anna Blasiak, teams up with translator, writer, poet, and knower-of-all-things-Spanish, Lawrence Schimel, to curate our poetry section, including poems from all the official languages.

All these genres and forms look forward, but they do not ignore Spain’s past. Jacky Collins discusses how the concept of historical memory has affected women’s writing in the past decades, and you’ll find mentions of the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) and the subsequent Franco dictatorship scattered unavoidably across the landscape of this magazine. 

The Spanish Riveter is about writing from Spain, but we could not ignore the influence of Latin American writing on the literature from the peninsula – in particular those from the Latam Boom generation who took up residence in Spain and contributed so much to the diversity this Riveter is celebrating. 

Diversity comes at a price though – and we’re proud to say we’ve been supported by diverse organisations: our thanks go to Acción Cultural Española (AC/E), the Spanish Embassy in the UK, Etxepare, Xunta de Galicia, Institut Ramon Llull and Instituto Cervantes for their generous backing.

Thanks must, of course, also go to all our contributors, especially the translators who’ve offered extracts and those who’ve curated our language spotlights and queer, children’s and poetry sections. And to our cover designer and illustrator, Ana Galvañ, a gasp of thanks at the splendour of her artwork.

A personal thank-you goes from me to our guest editor, Katie Whittemore and editorial assistant Alice Banks, both Spanish translators: what you hold in your hands is thanks in major part to their wide-ranging knowledge of the literature from the country.

Finally, thanks as always to the ELNet team – Anna Blasiak, design and production manager; Max Easterman, who looks after the books; and last – but first in all things – our Riveter-in-Chief, ELNet Director Rosie Goldsmith. 

And now, to España

West Camel

Read The Spanish Riveter here or order your paper copy from here.

Buy books from The Spanish Riveter through the European Literature Network’s The Spanish Riveter page.

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