Ignacio Echevarría, the esteemed Spanish literary critic perhaps best known outside of Spain for having at one time been the literary executor of Roberto Bolaño's estate, put out an eye-popping little art book last year under the title Los libros esenciales de la literatura en español: narrativa de 1950 a nuestros días [The Essential Books in Spanish-Language Literature: Narrative from 1950 to the Present]: Lunwerg Editores, Barcelona and Madrid, 2011. Although I don't know when I'll have the chance to give the thing a proper review, I thought I'd share Echevarría's selections with you now--with English translations noted in brackets where I know of them--in case any of you would like to start arguing about which books should or shouldn't have made the list!
Juan Carlos Onetti's La vida breve [A Brief Life]
Jorge Luis Borges' La muerte y la brújula [Death and the Compass]
Camilo José Cela's La colmena [The Beehive]
Juan José Arreola's Confabulario [Confabulario and Other Inventions]
Alejo Carpentier's Los pasos perdidos [The Lost Steps]
Carmen Laforet's Siete novelas cortas
Adolfo Bioy Casares' El sueño de los héroes [Dream of Heroes]
Juan Rulfo's Pedro Páramo [Pedro Páramo]
Antonio Di Benedetto's Zama
Virgilio Piñera's Cuentos fríos [Cold Tales]
Rodolfo Walsh's Operación Masacre
José María Arguedas' Los ríos profundos [Deep Rivers]
Francisco Ayala's Muertes de perro [Death as a Way of Life]
Silvina Ocampo's La Furia
Felisberto Hernández's La casa inundada
Ramón J. Sender's Réquiem por un campesino español [Requiem for a Spanish Peasant]
Armando López Salinas' La mina
Ernesto Sabato's Sobre héroes y tumbas [On Heroes and Tombs]
Carlos Fuentes' Aura [Aura]
Luis Martín-Santos' Tiempo de silencio [Time of Silence]
Miguel Delibes' Las ratas [Smoke on the Ground]
Julio Cortázar's Rayuela [Hopscotch]
Ignacio Aldecoa's Los pájaros de Baden-Baden
Juan Benet's Volverás a Región [Return to Región]
Gabriel García Márquez's Cien años de soledad [One Hundred Years of Solitude]
Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares' Crónicas de Bustos Domecq [Chronicles of Bustos Domecq]
Guillermo Cabrera Infante's Tres tristes tigres [Three Trapped Tigers]
José Revueltas' El apando
Osvaldo Lamborghini's El fiord
Alfredo Bryce Echenique's Un mundo para Julius [A World for Julius: A Novel]
Juan Goytisolo's Reivindicación del conde don Julián [Count Julian]
Juan García Hortelano's El gran momento de Mary Tribune
Julio Ramón Ribeyro's La palabra del mudo
Manuel Puig's The Buenos Aires Affair [The Buenos Aires Affair]
Juan Marsé's Si te dicen que caí [The Fallen]
Augusto Roa Bastos' Yo el Supremo [I, the Supreme]
Juan Carlos Onetti's Cuentos completos
Francisco Umbral's Mortal y rosa [A Mortal Spring]
Eduardo Mendoza's La verdad sobre el caso Savolta [The Truth about the Savolta Case]
Mario Vargas Llosa's La tía Julia y el escribidor [Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter]
Jorge Ibargüengoitia's Las muertas [The Dead Girls]
Esther Tusquets' El mismo mar de todos los veranos [The Same Sea as Every Summer]
Carmen Martín Gaite's El cuarto de atrás [The Back Room]
Juan Iturralde's Días de llamas
Elena Garro's Andamos huyendo Lola
Juan Benet's Saúl ante Samuel
Cristina Fernández Cubas' Mi hermana Elba
Ricardo Piglia's Respiración artificial [Artificial Respiration]
Juan Eduardo Zúñiga's Largo noviembre de Madrid
Luis Goytisolo's Antagonía
José Donoso's El jardín de al lado [The Garden Next Door]
Juan José Millas' El jardín vacío
Osvaldo Soriano's Cuarteles de invierno [Winter Quarters]
Juan José Saer's El entenado [The Witness]
Camilo José Cela's Mazurca para dos muertos [Mazurka for Two Dead Men]
Alejandro Gándara's La media distancia
Álvaro del Amo's Libreto
Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio's El testimonio de Yarfoz
Antonio Muñoz Molina's Beatus Ille [A Manuscript of Ashes]
Jesús Díaz's Las iniciales de la tierra [The Initials of the Earth]
Fernando del Paso's Noticias del Imperio [News from the Empire]
Javier Marías' Todas las almas [All Souls]
Álvaro Mutis' La última escala del Tramp Steamer [The Adventures of Maqroll: Four Novellas]
Álvaro Pombo's El metro de platinio iridiado
César Aira's La liebre [The Hare]
Enrique Vila-Matas' Suicidios ejemplares
Sergio Pitol's La vida conyugal
Ray Loriga's Lo peor de todo
Rafael Chirbes' La buena letra
Javier Tomeo's La agonía de Proserpina
Severo Sarduy's Pájaros de la playa [Beach Birds]
Gustavo Martín Garzo's El lenguaje de las fuentes
Manuel Vázquez Montalbán's El estrangulador
Fernando Vallejo's La Virgen de los Sicarios [Our Lady of the Assassins]
Ignacio Martínez de Pisón's El fin de los buenos tiempos
Germán Marín's El Palacio de la Risa
Francisco Casavella's Un enano español se suicida en Las Vegas
Rodrigo Rey Rosa's Que me maten si...
Alejandro Rossi's La fábula de las regiones
Fogwill's Cantos de marineros en La Pampa
Ramón Buenaventura's El año que viene en Tánger
Roberto Bolaño's Los detectives salvajes [The Savage Detectives]
Rodrigo Fresán's La velocidad de las cosas
Juan Villoro's La casa pierde
Rafael Gumucio's Memorias prematuras
Luis Mateo Díez's La ruina del cielo
Sergio Chejfec's Boca de lobo
Belén Gopegui's Lo real
Isaac Rosa's El vano ayer
Mercedes Cebrián's El malestar al alcance de todos
Horacio Castellanos Moya's Insensatez [Senselessness]
Roberto Bolaño's 2666 
Pedro Lemebel's Adiós, mariquita linda
Colectivo Todoazen's El año que tampoco hicimos la Revolución
Mario Levrero's La novela luminosa
Sergio Bizzio's Era el cielo
Roberto Brodsky's Bosque quemado
Alberto Fuguet's Missing (una investigación)
Luis Magrinyà's Cuentos de los 90
Francisco Ferrer Lerín's Familias como la mía
More on this book later.
Until then, this post is dedicated to Obooki, who's hosting a Latin-American Readalong featuring three of these titles this year, and Rise, who's shared a number of juicy book lists of his own over the past several months.
Now I think I haven't read any Spanish author; I've read one Portuguese (Jose Saramago) and about four Portuguese-speaking (Lilia Momple (Mozambique), pepetela (Angola), Jose Eduardo Agualusa (Angola), Mia Couto (Mozambique))authors. I have One Hundred Years of Solitude on the list of one of my challenges and a short story collection of Bolano on my TBR shelf.ResponderBorrar
My knowledge is shallow but the list serve as an important source of selecting authors to read.
Nana, I think One Hundred Years of Solitude followed by a different Bolaño than the one you have on your TBR (ideally The Savage Detectives but 2666 or maybe even Nazi Literature in the Americas would probably work as well) would make a fantastic introduction to two completely different strands of Spanish-language literature for you. In any event, you have a lot of treasures to look forward to! I think the list here is really interesting, though, because the critic has included "canonical" and "cutting edge" works among the various selections--a diverse group of works for sure.Borrar
Great list! - I've even read quite a few books on it. I suppose half my readalong is pre-1950, and the only writer he didn't choose was José Lezama Lima. I might be reading some of the others too this year - I am reading 3 of them at the moment - Cela, Arreola and del Paso. It's a pity so little from the last 30 years had been translated.ResponderBorrar
Books I'd disagree with:
Donoso's El jardín de al lado (trans. The Garden Next Door) - dreadful book; Donoso wrote many better.
Mario Vargas Llosa's La tía Julia y el escribidor - surely he wrote better books than this!
Jorge Ibargüengoitia's Las muertas - I thought Los relámpagos de agosto was infinitely superior.
Glad there's so little Javier Marías - I thought he'd missed him off altogther at first.
It is a great list, isn't it? Of course, I figured you of all people would be the one to have read a ton of these. I haven't read any of Donoso's fiction yet, but I was surprised to see that title make the list. As for the Vargas Llosa, that novel does seem to be surprisingly highly regarded by a lot of bloggers and critics I read--but Echevarría says he knows he'll catch flack for suggesting it in lieu of VLl's The Green House or Conversation in the Cathedral. For my part, I'd recommend Javier Cercas' excellent Soldiers of Salamis over Sender's somewhat stodgy Requiem for a Spanish Peasant as my Spanish Civil War entry any day of the week--but I like all Echevarría's choices that I've read so far: many amazing works on that list.Borrar
All this on the same day I'm hauling 20+ books back to the library? Well at least I'll have a bag for the return trip. Thanks for a lot of new names/titles to check out. But really - NO women writers from the '90's? And only 3 or 4 from the last 60 years? And while my knowledge of Spanish language literature is extremely limited, I'm still surprised by the absence of Lezama Lima and of Manuel Mujica Lainez. And Your Face Tomorrow didn't make the cut? Ah well, lists are made for the purpose of argument.ResponderBorrar
Scott, the "no women writers from the '90s" thing might seem like a slight; however, I'm in no position to recommend a female-authored title from that decade that should have cracked the list. I think Echevarría mentions twice the amount of female authors you give him credit for, though--still no big number, of course, but not all that far removed from the representation you find on the Semana.com poll of the best 100 Spanish language novels of the last 25 years. That list includes Ángeles Mastreta (twice), Ana María Matute, Diamela Eltit (three times), Carmen Boullosa, Tununa Mercado, Rosa Montero, and Ana María Shua, none of whom I have read. Lezama Lima's absence surprised me more than Mujica Láinez's did although I haven't read either of them yet--ha, do you sense a theme here? And even though I'm a big fan of All Souls, I wouldn't have included that Marías at the expense of Your Face Tomorrow; that's just nutty! Anyway, hope you had a good haul at the library. :DBorrar
What a cruel, cruel man you are....ResponderBorrar
It's a great list, I'll bookmark it. I have looked through a few decades already and recognized the one or the other but not many...
I know it's a daunting experience, still, you really might consider a Spanish Literature Month. I would say you have an obligation. Sort of...
Caroline, you must be psychic--Stu from Winstonsdad's Blog actually asked me to cohost a Spanish Lit Month with him a while back! I think we'll be doing something in July or thereabouts although I imagine it will be much more low key than the German Lit Month you and Lizzy dazzled everybody with. As for the list, I'm glad you enjoyed it. There are a lot of titles on it of books I've been planning to read, but there are also a lot of titles I'd never heard of or had heard of but knew little about. Very useful!Borrar
Yes, yes, yes..... I will spread the news as soon as you say "Go!"... There are many people who are going to join.Borrar
I appreciate your enthusiasm, Caroline, but I'm kind of amused to think that many people might want to participate given how ignored Spanish-language lit is by the English-speaking book blogosphere in general; at the very least, I think that the people who have already left comments on this post constitute about half the bloggers I know who review Spanish/Lat Am stuff on anything like a regular basis! On the other hand, I don't mean to underestimate the power of Stu's charisma and range of his literature in translation contacts. In any event, it should be fun--and thanks for offering to spread the news, you're a perfect ambassador!Borrar
I have rad but six, so can only marvel.ResponderBorrar
Now, what I would like is for someone to extend the exercise backwards, to The Poem of the Cid. Entire centuries can be skipped, so the task is not as daunting as it might seem.
I want to see that list too. Someone? Anyone? Please?Borrar
Oh I see, delete eh? - I thought I might be able to edit.Borrar
Here's a short list I had:
This list from El Pais, is 100 Spanish writers saying which 10 books influenced them the most. OK, has a lot of non-Spanish books, but if you digest all the Spanish books I imagine you'd get quite a long list:
Tom, there's a lot to marvel at here, I agree. Taking you up on your challenge/invitation to skip over entire centuries of literature I know little or nothing about, though, I'll propose the following 10 "essential" titles to take us back from 1949 to The Poem of the Cid:Borrar
Alejo Carpentier's El reino de este mundo or The Kingdom of This World (1949)
Borges' Ficciones (1944)
Roberto Arlt's Los siete locos or The Seven Madmen (1929)
Miguel de Unamuno's Niebla or Mist (1914)
[Hold on to your seat: time travel ahead!]
Francisco de Quevedo's La vida del buscón or The Swindler (1626)
Cervantes' Don Quixote (1605 & 1615)
Anonymous' Lazarillo de Tormes (1554)
[More time travel]
Fernando de Rojas' La Celestina or Celestina (1499)
Juan Ruiz's Libro de buen amor or The Book of Good Love (c. 1343)
The anonymous Poema de Mío Cid (12th century?)
I'd trade either the Unamuno or the Carpentier for some Sor Juana poetry, but I'm sticking with the idea of narrative as non-poetry and non-theater. The Cid and the Libro de buen amor get grandfathered in as exceptions, of course!
Now this list is a list I can recommend, since I have read almost all of it.Borrar
Someone needs to do something about the Spanish 19th century though. 77 Pérez Galdós novels await the blogger intrepid enough to tackle them. Who will that someone be?
Barring anybody else stepping forward, I nominate Dwight to handle the 19th century with Obooki as his potential back-up. Dwight already has a big head start on Galdós and I think he's been talking about wanting to read Clarín this year too. Me? My only qualification is that I own part 1 of Fortunata y Jacinta. You? Probably too busy with the Portuguese part of the Iberian peninusula at the moment. Yes, it'll have to be Dwight who takes on those 77 Galdós novels. He's on vacation right now, but I imagine we can inform him of his new responsibilities when he gets back!Borrar
Well, I'm glad it's not me: I'm not a great fan of Galdós so far. Might read Misericordia soon, though.Borrar
Wha...wha...what? It doesn't pay to leave the internet for a couple of days, does it?Borrar
I think my Spanish reads for this year will probably only include the 4 Torquemada novels and the Clarin. Maybe another Mendoza novel (if I still have City of Marvels somewhere in the house). But we'll see.
*Obooki: Ok, you're relieved of your back-up duties then. We should prob. let Dwight choose his own assistant himself anyway, ha ha.Borrar
*Dwight: Yes, the arrangements have all been made and lawyers are currently drawing up all pertinent contracts and paperwork for your new role! I'm guessing the four Torquemada novels + Clarín will constitute a significant amount of reading for you with or without another Mendoza, so no problem if the other 70 Galdós novels will have to wait for another person/year. Cheers!
A treat! Where's the like button for Echevarría's set? Idiosyncratic as a critic's list can be. In limiting the number of books to one per author, he seems to have produced more of a survey than a best list. Only six have duplicate works (Onetti, Borges, Bioy Casares, Benet, Cela, Bolaño). I think the operating word is "essential". Hail, subjectivity!ResponderBorrar
I glanced at Echevarría's explanation of his selection process, Rise, and he took pains to note that he viewed it as a "sporting" type thing rather than an act of canon creation or anything like that. Some of the decisions were arbitrary, in other words. He also often mentions other key works by the authors in question when he's writing about the "winners," so it might be a little less survey-like than you'd expect. On that note, even though I would have included a second Piglia or a third Bolaño myself (!), I look forward to reading more of the summaries and understanding the reasons why Echevarría picked the titles he did for those idiosyncratic reasons you mention. Anyway, glad you enjoyed the treat!Borrar
I agree it's a very interesting list. So much so that a few weeks ago I had the intention to merge it with another 100-best-of-Spanish-language list (to be found here: http://splalit.blogspot.com/2007/03/100-best-novels-written-in-spanish-in.html) Unfortunately, only 8 books actually overlap, so in the end there were too few left to actually make a synthesis out of it and do a reading project. I think this also says something about the aforementioned subjectivity of such list, although the one from 2007 is actually a synthesis from the suggestions of several authors, critics, and other members of the literary world.ResponderBorrar
So now I'm debating what to do with those two lists. Read all books on them? Just forget about them? Suggestions are welcome...
Bettina, I've posted that other list here before and seen it mentioned on multiple friends' blogs as well--so in general it's been a great reading guide for a lot of people, I think! I tend to use these sorts of things for author recommendations rather than specific titles, but it'd be nice to know how other people use them. I also like to get ideas from nonfiction works by authors I like (i.e. Bolaño, Ricardo Piglia, Juan José Saer), and Sergio Pitol and Enrique Vila-Matas have both added plenty of reading recommendations to my TBR piles with their chatty fiction/nonfiction shop talk. Please post on your project if/when you figure it out--I'd love to hear more about it and I'm sure it would be of interest to almost everybody who's commented on this thread today. Cheers!Borrar
Has anyone challenged Echevarría to a duel over their omission?ResponderBorrar
Ha ha, I was thinking about that while I was typing up the list! Are you aware of the big 2004 dust-up between Echevarría and the novelist Bernardo Atxaga over Echevarría's slamming of A's The Accordionist's Son? It's quite ironic given Echevarría's fictionalization in that The Savage Detectives duel sequence. Cheers!Borrar
I wasn't aware of that. Beautiful irony. Bolaño as fortune teller perhaps? Or just part of a critics job?Borrar
Have any bloggers suffered the same fate, I wonder?
Séamus, yes quite the predictive powers on Bolaño's part! I thought the Echevarría/Atxaga skirmish had inspired Bolaño's sequence, but when I went back to read about the incident, I realized the timing was way off. "Beautiful irony," indeed.Borrar
Muchas gracias, Richard for sharing this list! I have it bookmarked already. I've only read one book from it, plus one soon to be completed, but I've been thinking about working on a Spanish-language project list sometime here soon. This will give me some options! I've heard of a number of the authors and/or titles, just not read many. Hmmm...maybe a project for next year?ResponderBorrar
¡De nada, Amanda--my pleasure! I haven't seen the list that Obooki mentioned yet, but the one that Bettina (Liburuak) linked to is another really good one if you're looking for more ideas for your project. Also, Sarah from what we have here is a failure to communicate did an all-Latin American reading project 2-3 years ago and had a blast reading one Lat Am classic each month while "traveling" through different countries (of course, I had a blast reading her reviews!). Anyway, good luck with the project. :DBorrar
Thanks, I will look into the links and various titles mentioned on this page. And if there's going to be a Spanish-language month (as mentioned above), I'll have to save my planned reading of Ficciones for then!Borrar
It looks like the event will take place in July, Amanda, but I'm taking my marching orders from Stu since it was his idea originally. Will of course be glad to have you reading Borges with us whatever the eventual time frame, though!Borrar
Alejandro Zambra is a dang wiseacre.ResponderBorrar
I'm referring to obooki's pdf up above. The comments have gone and threaded under me.
Tom, don't know why the comments are weirding out in the way that they are but I also enjoyed the all-Perec reading list in Obooki's PDF. Also, I noticed a lot of Cervantes and Proust in that list but not a whole lot of Hunger Games--no wonder these Spanish-language authors find it hard to connect with readers in the English-speaking blogosphere! Well, that plus the lack of translations...Borrar
Obooki, thanks for the links on your Spanish canon post and the life-changing books one. Very interesting both. Also, thanks for the Donoso title info in your original comment--I've added it to the post for posterity.
Greetings from vacation-land... Of the books on the list that I've read, I'm especially glad to see Mendoza's The Truth about the Savolta Case. I really enjoyed it both times I've read it and even though I've highly recommended it once I'll do so again here (just move the soapbox out of the way when I'm done). Thanks for posting this. I'm looking forward to checking out everyone's posts on the list.ResponderBorrar
Thanks for interrupting your vacation for this, Dwight, and I'm really glad to hear you speak of the Mendoza novel so highly--that was one of the works that really grabbed my attention pretty much from the outset, and Echevarría's summary of it makes it sound fascinating. Sold! Glad, too, that you enjoyed perusing the list; I've been tickled by the response it's provoked so far given my initial fear that only 1-2 people might have been interested in it after all that typing I did!Borrar
Wow, I'm late to the party. This is a fabulous resource, Richard. Thanks for posting it. And I am very interested in Spanish Literature Month if you and Stu go ahead with it.ResponderBorrar
You're very welcome, Gavin--glad Echevarría's list might come in handy for you (I should note that the books that I've read from the list all range from fairly good to all-time favorites, so I look forward to checking out some of the works that are more obscure to me at this point). Spanish Lit Month will take place--probably in July--so I'm also glad to hear of your interest in it (more details to come, for sure). Cheers!Borrar
great list Richard I ve read a number Villa matas got new one set in dublin that has caught my eye ,all the best stuResponderBorrar
People had a lot of fun with this list, Stu! I've read two Vila-Matas novels so far and have another one waiting for me (the Parisian one where he enters a Hemingway imitator's contest). Good stuff.Borrar
great list July be good I ll contact you richard ,I ve read a few from list ,all the best stuResponderBorrar
Stu, got your e-mail and will get back to you about it with details shortly. All sounds good. Cheers!Borrar
no le hagan caso, no le den importancia, esa lista no tiene la minima importanciaResponderBorrar
donde esta "el astillero" "guerra del fin del mundo" "conversacion en la catedral" "la fiesta del chivo" "la casa verde" "reino de este mundo" "cronica de una muerte anunciada" "el siglo delas luces" "juntacadaveres"?
los cinco novelistas imprescindibles de latinoamerica son vargas llosa, onetti, garcia marquez, rulfo y carpentier.
siendo MVLL, a mi parecer, libro por libro, obra maestra tras obra maestra, el mayor novelista de esta region
¡Hola Anónimo! y favor de perdonar la demora al responder al comentario. Aunque estoy de acuerdo contigo que la selección de La tía Julia es curiosísima frente a la variedad de otras alternativas vargasllosianas, no puedo criticar a Echevarría demasiado porque él ha selecionnado dos libros de Onetti, otra novela estimada de Carpentier (El reino de este mundo, aunque un librazo, viene del '49 o antes del principio de la lista en 1950), una novela de Rulfo, et cétera y et cétera. De los libros que he leído hasta este punto, puedo asegurar que hay muchos librazos en la lista. De todos modos, gracias por visitar y bienvenido al blog. ¡Saludos!Borrar