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Writers under 35: British magazine ‘Granta’ celebrates the diversity of Spanish-language literature | USA

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The authors selected by ‘Granta’ as the 25 best Spanish-language writers under the age of 35.
The authors selected by ‘Granta’ as the 25 best Spanish-language writers under the age of 35.

Vladimir Nabokov used to say that Russian is spoken with a “broad and constant smile,” because Russian vowels are like oranges and English ones are like lemons. In line with that analogy. Valerie Miles, the co-director of UK-based literary magazine Granta, says Spanish vowels remind her of grenadine seeds or machine-gun bullets: “Short and very fast.” After Japanese, Spanish is the fastest language in the world, with the highest number of syllables pronounced per second and with a vast and exuberant vocabulary, thanks in no small part to speakers in Latin America. Granta has emphasized this richness of language in its latest list of the best 25 Spanish-language novelists under the age of 35, compiled 11 years after its first and which includes writers from four continents. The list was presented by Miles at Madrid’s Cervantes Institute on Wednesday.

“One of the main differences in this selection is that many of these young writers pay particular attention to the sonorous qualities of the written word,” says Miles. “They have a keen ear for capturing the intonation and the subtle idiomatic twists of different geographical areas. And that applies not only to dialogue but in terms of incorporating a narrative voice.”

Miles also drew a distinction between the generation of writers included on the first list in 2010 and this one, the first dedicated to young Spanish-language writers by the Barcelona edition of Granta, which is published quarterly. As on the 2010 list, there are veteran prize-winning writers included such as Ecuador’s Mónica Ojeda, the Cuban Carlos Manuel Álvarez, Costa Rican Carlos Fonseca and Spain’s Cristina Morales, as well as debut novelists like 26-year-old Tenerife-born Andrea Abreu.

The front page of the latest edition of ’Granta.‘
The front page of the latest edition of ’Granta.‘

The predominant profile on Granta’s 2010 list was that of the urban, cosmopolitan writer and in the case of those Latin Americans included, a stint in Europe was practically obligatory. Among them were Santiago Roncagliolo, Andrés Neuman, Alejandro Zambra and Patricio Pron. A pattern of linear continuity in the biographies of the pillars of a boom that is now falling silent. “This canon is making a break with that generation, perhaps because of the greater democratization of editorial access,” says Miles. “Today they are writing from completely different places and don’t feel the need to employ urban language. They have lost the complex that dictated to write well in Spanish was to write in that way.”

“The internet has also helped to break that hegemony of having to go to the big cities to read other things,” says Diego Zúñiga, one of the 25 writers on the list who sets his novels in his hometown of Iquique, in the north of Chile. His story Una Historia de Mar (or, A Story of the Sea) is a homage to a city forgotten by Chilean literature where a world champion spearfisherman, Chungungo Martínez, resides. “I’m not afraid to use words that people maybe won’t understand. The word Chungungo, for example, is one that not every reader needs to know, but it has a sound that I wanted to include in the text,” Zúñiga says.

The range of stories produced by each of the 25 authors on the list is evidence of a geographic and linguistic paradigm shift. José Ardila writes from a small village in the rural depths of Antioquia, Colombia. Miluska Benavides is based on Peru’s mineral-producing coast. Martín Felipe Castagne works from an Argentinean mountainside. Musicality and the desire to capture sound are also present in Abreu’s “Canarian pizzicato,” as Miles describes it, and in the declamatory tone of Morales’ ode to female karate fighters. Speaking to EL PAÍS, Morales states her preference for consigning neutral Spanish to the past. “I give thanks to God if my colleagues and I have overcome this canonical requirement. Hopefully, that is the case and hopefully, texts published in 2021 can be wildly provincialist, oral and follow the glorious path of illegibility.”

The days when female writers were associated with a single genre, or with themes like family, domesticity or intimacy, are behind us

Mexican author Aniela Rodríguez

Ojeda, whose new work, featured on the list, is a tale based on an Incan ceremony, describes the written word as “sensorial, musical, rhythmic, atmospheric… when you write you are composing a specific cadence that you feel with your whole body. That is literature: the word that, as in a magic trick, transforms matter because it passes through it. To not place faith in this dimension of writing would be to waste its potential.”

The 2021 Granta list also underscores that there are many female authors like Ojeda leading these changes in Spanish-language literature. The introduction in the Spanish edition of the magazine reads: “It is to a large degree women who are leading formal preoccupations along a new path. We have received more nominations for women than for men in countries like Spain and Argentina, and an even split in Chile.” On the 2010 list, there were 17 men and five women, with Spain and Argentina the most-represented countries. In the latest selection, the balance is 14 men and 11 women with Spain (six) and Mexico (four) providing the highest number of writers per nation and Cuba (three) enjoying greater representation.

Aniela Rodríguez believes that many of these authors are trying to experiment with language as Fernanda Melchor did, or with genres like Samanta Schweblin or María Fernanda Ampuero. Rodríguez, born in Chihuahua in 1992, is one of the youngest authors on the list and her tale of a fisherman carrying a dead child is a modern incarnation of the oral style of Mexican writer Juan Rulfo. “The days when female writers were associated with a single genre, or with themes like family, domesticity or intimacy, are behind us,” she says.

Although Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño remains one of the key reference points for many of these authors, one of the writers most often mentioned among those selected by Granta is Sylvia Plath. “Despite not being a figure of reference for me, it really caught my attention and I think it’s very exciting that the writer most cited as a model is a woman, a poet on a list of novelists, and one who wrote in English,” says Andrea Chapela, another of the selected writers. “It says a lot about things like putting more emphasis on affection at the heart of the work, of care with language and a more embodied style of writing.”

One of the main differences in this selection is that many of these young writers pay particular attention to the sonorous qualities of the written word

Valerie Miles, co-director of ‘Granta’

However, Plath’s presence can also be interpreted as a reflection of current concerns in Spanish-language literature about shining a light on gender violence. Aura García-Junco was surprised to learn of Plath’s popularity among the authors on the list “although it makes perfect sense because she was very much in the shadow of her husband, something that we have re-evaluated, and also there is that vein of a violent situation running through all of her work.” García-Junco is one of three female Mexican writers on the list and her novel Mar de Piedra (or Sea of Stone), an extract of which is published in Granta’s Spanish edition, speaks precisely about femicide in Mexico, in a world somewhere between fantasy and dystopia in which women who have disappeared can end up as statues on Mexico City’s Avenida Madero. “I wanted to reflect how missing people in Mexico become part of the land again, despite being unaccounted for,” she says. “They leave traces that transcend their own existence, in the social fabric; they are a reminder that nobody is safe.”

For the 25 writers on the Granta list, being chosen among the best Spanish-language authors of their generation is a calling card for the English-speaking editorial world of the United States and the United Kingdom. Founded 132 years ago, Granta earned its mythical status when it began publishing its lists of up-and-coming writers in the second half of the 20th century. In 1983, the magazine tipped a group of thirty-somethings including Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Julian Barnes and Kazuo Ishiguro for greatness. Every story and extract for this latest edition has been translated by some of the most recognizable names in the business – Esther Allen, Sarah Booker, Sophie Hughes and Daniel Hahn, among others – as well as Valerie Miles.

Among the jury for the 2021 list were the co-founder of Granta’s Spanish edition Aurelio Major, the literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation Gaby Wood and the writers Horacio Castellanos Moya, Rodrigo Fresán and Chloe Aridjis.

The complete list of writers selected by Granta as the 25 best Spanish-language authors under the age of 35

– Irene Reyes-Noguerol, Spain, 1997

– Andrea Abreu, Spain, 1995

– Munir Hachemi, Spain, 1989

– David Aliaga, Spain, 1989

– Cristina Morales, Spain, 1985

– Alejandro Morellón, Spain, 1985

– Aniela Rodríguez, Mexico, 1992

– Andrea Chapela, Mexico, 1990

– Aura García-Junco, Mexico, 1989

– Mateo García Elizondo, Mexico, 1987

– Camila Fabbri, Argentina, 1989

– Michel Nieva, Argentina, 1988

– Martín Felipe Castagnet, Argentina, 1986

– Carlos Manuel Álvarez, Cuba, 1989

– Dainerys Machado Vento, Cuba, 1986

– Eudris Planche Savón, Cuba, 1985

– Paulina Flores, Chile, 1988

– Diego Zúñiga, Chile, 1987

– Estanislao Medina Huesca, Equatorial Guinea, 1990

– Mónica Ojeda, Ecuador, 1988

– Carlos Fonseca, Costa Rica, 1987

– José Adiak Montoya, Nicaragua, 1987

– Miluska Benavides, Peru, 1986

– José Ardila, Colombia, 1985

– Gonzalo Baz, Uruguay, 1985

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DiverXo: Spaniard Dabiz Muñoz named best chef in the world | Culture

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Spanish star chef Dabiz Muñoz was awarded the prize for being the best chef in the world at the fifth edition of The Best Chef Awards 2021 on Wednesday. The owner of DiverXo, a restaurant in Madrid with three Michelin stars, accepted his award at a live event in Amsterdam. At a press conference following the award ceremony, Muñoz (previously known as David Muñoz) said that chefs around the world are in a “hard” situation “due to the coronavirus pandemic,” which saw strict restrictions on the hospitality sector.

The Best Chef, a project created in 2015 that is dedicated to celebrating culinary talent, also released a list of its top 100 chefs, which includes 13 Spaniards. Muñoz said these types of awards not only “help restaurants, but also the people of the country” that feature on the top 100 list. “What comes to me, comes to Madrid, which to me is one of the most exciting cities in the world today for gastronomy,” said the DiverXo owner, who added that the recognition will help the Spanish capital “to continue to grow.”

Last March, Muñoz appeared at a culinary conference called “Dialogues in the Kitchen” in San Sebastián, where he talked about the “disruptive” way he had overcome the challenges that emerged as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The restaurant owner told the audience that the experience had made him “renew his vows” with DiverXo. But the same could not be said for Muñoz’s restaurant in London, StreetXo, which was forced to permanently close last December, five years after it was opened.

The Swedish chef Björn Frantzen came in second place on the top 100 list, and also won The Best Chef Voted by Chefs Award. Basque chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, from Mugaritz restaurant, came in third place, while Joan Roca, from Catalonia, took home the Science Award. At the ceremony, Roca said his team “is strongly committed to science and sustainability,” and added that such awards “benefit the country more than the chef,” as the prize-winners represent “a structure, products, producers.” He also said that chefs strengthen the tourism industry and the work of local producers.

Italian chef Alfonso Iaccarino won The Best Chef Legend Award; Fatmata Binta, from Sierra Leone, received the rising star award for her work at Fulani Kitchen; Italian chef Franco Pepe won the prize for the best pizza and Vicky Lau, from Tate restaurant in Hong Kong, was awarded the food art award.

English version by Melissa Kitson.



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Commitments to end direct provision ‘already behind schedule’

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Government commitments to end direct provision are “slipping”, the State’s chief human rights and equality commissioner has warned.

Sinéad Gibney, chief of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), said slippage meant delays and “people continue to languish in this system which deprives them of so much”.

She was addressing the Oireachtas committee on public petitions on progress implementing the Government’s White Paper on ending direct provision. Published in February by Minister for Children and Equality Roderic O’Gorman, it envisages closing all direct provision accommodation centres by the end of 2024 and replacing them with a new system of accommodation and supports.

Ms Gibney said “relatively simply fixes”, such as ensuring asylum seekers had the right to apply for a driving licence, were “already behind schedule”. The White Paper had promised legislation would be introduced before summer 2021.

“As we appear today the commission is not aware of any specific legislative amendment having been introduced to allow applications for driving licences . . . Being barred from even being able to apply for a driving licence is a massive State-built barrier to securing or seeking employment,” she said.

“The right to seek employment was hard won for asylum seekers in a Supreme Court case by a determined Burmese man . . . That victory is made hollow by such administrative barriers as access to driving licences.”

IHREC, she continued had “concerns” that an independent inspection regime of accommodation centres had not yet begun.

Before the White Paper the State had been in breach of EU directives by not ensuring vulnerability assessments were conducted on every asylum seeker on arrival.

These were now happening but at far too low a rate. “Figures provided to the Oireachtas in April this year show that 258 applicants had entered the vulnerability assessment process with 151 assessments completed and 107 then ongoing. This obviously needs to be significantly scaled up given there had been 886 applications received this year alone,” said Ms Gibney.

Stephen Kirwan of the Law Society’s human rights and equality committee, described “frustrations” among colleagues that clients in the asylum process were often not getting legal advice until “a very late stage”.

One of the “most significant obstacles to the White Paper being realised” was delays in the processing of international protection, or asylum applications, said Ihrec commissioner Colm O’Dwyer SC.

At the end of July there were more than 5,000 people awaiting a “first instance” decision on the applications and the median time to get a decision was 26.9 months, he said.

Ms Gibney called for a “mindset change” in the whole international protection system.

“It’s about moving towards informing our system with a mindset that we are lucky to welcome in many of the aspirant citizens . . . We need to invite them. We need to offer them integration from day one. We need to see and value the contribution they can make to our society and I think when we do that we do start to then see a system that is informed by trauma, that understands the trauma that some of the people have been through [and] that provides wraparound supports tailored to their needs.”

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Q&A: What is the British government doing to help Brits in Italy overcome post-Brexit hurdles?

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On Wednesday the British embassy in Rome organised a town hall-style question and answer session to allow British residents in Italy to raise concerns and put their questions to Minister Wendy Morton and British Ambassador to Italy Jill Morris.

After the session, The Local was granted a brief interview with the minister to discuss some of the major issues for UK nationals in Italy that we’ve been reporting on this past year.

From residency rights to driving licences, here are the minister’s answers to our questions about the post-Brexit rights of British citizens in Italy.

How is the UK government assisting British nationals struggling to access the new carta di soggiorno elettronica?

UK citizens living in Italy have been encouraged by the British government to apply for a carta di soggiorno elettronica, a new biometric card that proves their right to live in Italy under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.

While the card is not required by the Italian government, it’s strongly recommended as the simplest way for Brits who have been resident in Italy since before January 1, 2021 to demonstrate their rights of residency and ensure they can continue to access essential services.

Some UK citizens, though, have had trouble accessing the card due to processing delays or the fact that their local police station, or questura, hasn’t yet got set up to issue the document – and have run into problems obtaining work contracts and applying for driving licenses as a result.

Anti-Brexit protesters on September 22, 2017 in Florence, Italy. Photo: Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

The minister said that the British embassy in Rome has been holding regular online meetings to listen to residents’ concerns about the card, and also provides updates via a newsletter.

“Our ambassador has a newsletter that is a way of communicating regularly to British citizens, so they can sign up to this, as well as signing up to the Foreign Office’s ‘Living In…’ guide, to get up to date information on an ongoing basis,” she said.

Ambassador Morris highlighted that the British embassy is collecting reports from British citizens who have experienced problems accessing the card (as well as any other issues) via a contact form on its website.

“We encourage British residents in Italy to report to us when they have any difficulties exercising their rights, whether that’s related to healthcare, whether that’s at the questura to get the carta di soggiorno elettronica, or any other issues people may have,” the ambassador said.

“We log the individual cases; we also look for trends, so when we see there’s a trend of a problem, for example stamping passports at a particular airport, then we target the authorities at that airport to give them information and make sure all the border guards have that information.”

The embassy sends a monthly update to the Italian authorities to alert them to ongoing issues, she added.

You can find the embassy’s contact form here.

The ambassador also noted that the British embassy has worked with Italy’s national association of mayors, Anci, to distribute a booklet to comuni across the country laying out the post-Brexit rights of British citizens.

Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement on reciprocal driving licenses before the grace period expires at the end of this year?

After Britain left the EU at the end of last year, British residents who hadn’t yet got around to converting their UK license to an Italian one were granted a 12-month grace period in which they could continue to use their British license in Italy.

Many hoped that Italy and the UK would later come to an agreement which would allow drivers to continue using their British license beyond that point.

But with less than four months to go before the grace period expires, Brits are now wondering whether to gamble on the two countries reaching an accord by the end of this year – and risk being unable to drive come January 1st – or to undergo the time-consuming and expensive process of retaking their driving test in Italy.

When we raised this issue with Ms. Morton, she said: “We absolutely are continuing to negotiate with the Italian government on the right to exchange a UK license for an Italian one without the need to retake a driving test, and I can assure you it’s our absolute priority to reach an agreement before the end of the grace period which is at the end of this year.”

REAL ALSO: Reader question: Will my UK driving licence still be valid in Italy after 2021?

Photo: Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

What is government doing to help British-Italian families wanting to return to live in the UK?

UK nationals wanting to return to live in Britain with their EU partners have until the end of March 2022 before the bar for being granted a spousal visa will be significantly raised. That deadline is fixed and will not be extended, the minister confirmed on Wednesday.

“If they want to apply, it’s important that they apply before the deadline,” she told The Local.

“Close family members of UK nationals who return from living in the EU by the 29th of March next year can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme as long as that relationship existed before exit day,” said the minister.

“It’s also worth remembering that family members of individuals from the EU, from Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Lichtenstein, as well as the families of British citizens may also be eligible to apply for a family permit under the EU Settlement Scheme, which will make it easier to travel with a family member to the UK.”

READ ALSO: Brits with EU partners warned over future problems returning to live in UK

Some EU-British couples, however, are already experiencing problems having their right to live together in the UK recognised, with reports coming out that the Home Office has denied some applications on seemingly flimsy or technical grounds.

“The fundamental thing here is that British citizens can return to the UK at any time. And it’s important that we remember that,” the minister said when asked about this issue.

In case you were wondering.

For British-Italian couples in Italy experiencing problem, “the first port of call should be our team here in the embassy; it may be that they then need to be signposted if it’s a Home Office issue,” said the minister.

“The Home Office has made a whole range of advice available online, and can also be contacted by telephone and by email.”

See The Local’s ‘Dealing with Brexit‘ section for the latest news and updates.



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