When looking for interesting new Spanish-language writers, my first stop is Hablemos, escritoras, a website whose tag line is “All the writers, in one place.” Readers familiar with romance languages will know from the site’s name (escritoras vs. escritores) that it is a home for female-identifying writers. The brainchild of Austin, Tex.–based scholar Adriana Pacheco, the bilingual Spanish-English site offers book reviews, author bios, publisher profiles, and nearly 500 interview podcasts with authors, publishers, and translators.
On my most recent visit to Hablemos, escritoras, I discovered a novel by Mexican author Rosa Beltrán, Free Radicals, the first Hablemos, Escritoras book (a joint venture with Miami publisher Katakana), translated into English by poet Robin Myers. Pacheco has recently launched an audiobook line as well, with two titles available on Libro.fm. Andor, available only in Spanish, is an eerie, dystopian novel by Venezuelan author Raquel Abend Van Dalen, about a man who has attempted to take his own life and, in doing so, embarks on a choose-your-own-adventure story as he tries to make up his mind about whether he prefers to return to the land of the living or remain with the dead. The second audiobook is a collection of essays by Mexican éminence grise Angelina Muñiz-Huberman (who is widely credited with introducing Sephardic mysticism into Mexican literature), translated into English by the excellent D.P. Snyder.
Fellow Texas publisher Literal has also recently launched an audiobook line (on Audible) with a novella by Argentine author Gisela Heffes, Sophie La Belle and the Miniature Cities. Literal, founded by Houston resident Rose Mary Salum, is the first place I go to read work by regular columnists such as MacArthur grant winner Cristina Rivera Garza; Francisco Hinojosa, who has been affiliated with Mexico’s FONCA (analogous to the U.S.’s NEA) for over two decades; and San Luis Potosí Short Story Prize winner Alberto Chimal, who maintains his own literary website, Las Historias.
Among the most interesting new titles each year is often the winner of the Biblioteca Breve Prize, which goes to an unpublished manuscript and in February went to Spanish author Rosario Villajos’s La Educación Física. The jury lauded Villajos’s novel “for its narrative voice that explores identity through the body and, in doing so, captures a generational experience in a way that is both unique and universal.” Narrated by 16 year-old Catalina, the novel follows her race to get home before her strict curfew one Sunday night. Villajos, who also works as a UX designer, was preceded by major authors such as Fernando Aramburu, Gioconda Belli, and Elena Poniatowska.
Another young award winner, Irati Elorrieta, received the Basque Prize for Literature with her debut novel, Winter Lights, which was published in Spanish with support from Etxepare, the Basque cultural institute that supports and funds translations. Set in Berlin, the novel follows a peripatetic young Spanish woman as she tries to create a home for herself in the dynamic, multi-ethnic city, depicting the “new Europe,” where a diaspora of young Europeans wander the continent making temporary homes in various major cities.
Also pre-approved for translation support is Death at the Carlton by Javier Sagastiberri, a whodunnit about a Basque magnate who is murdered at his 70th birthday party in the landmark beaux arts Hotel Carlton in Bilbao. Fast-paced and glamorous, critics cited Agatha Christie, Georges Simenon, and F. Scott Fitzgerald in their reviews of this psychological thriller.
Though it has yet to be honored with a prize, La Grieta, by Southern Cone author Catalina Infante, deserves more attention. It’s a short novel in the tradition of Nobel laureate Doris Lessing, whose The Cleft explores the impact of the birth of a male child on an exclusively female community. Infante’s novel brings postpartum depression to life through the eyes of Laura, whose mother has died of cancer. As her infant grows, the narrator reflects on her relationship with her mother in a series of vignettes examining her unconventional family life.
Also on my reading list: Ecuadorian writer Cristina Burneo Salazar’s Historias de Resistencia, a collection of crónicas, essays, and interviews with women of the Shuar indigenous peoples in Ecuador, whose way of life has been disrupted by state-sanctioned mining activities.
Samantha Schnee is the founding editor of literary nonprofit Words Without Borders and translates from the Spanish.