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Curl up and indulge: Top reads by Spanish authors translated into English
16 March 2020 @ 11:23

Having to stay at home – except for supermarket and pharmacy trips and anything else that's of extreme necessity – need not be so bad; if you have a terrace or balcony you can still enjoy the sunshine, and if the weather cools down, you could catch up on your reading and find out more about Spanish culture and history.

If your Spanish is already at the right level (just below A-level standard is enough), then the world's your oyster as far as reading is concerned. As well as Spanish-language novels in the original, you can have fun re-reading all your favourites that you first thumbed through in English – yes, it's the same story, same characters, and literary translators are as faithful as they can be to the author's style and voice, but something always feels a little different about it; perhaps you automatically find yourself setting the scene in your head in a country which speaks the language you're reading in. And you can look out for word-plays and jokes that have not translated because they probably can't be – Las suelas son el alma de los pies ('The souls of your feet'), from Olivia Goldsmith's Bad Boy (Chico Malo Busca Chica, in Spanish), or tarta de pastor and crujidos (shepherd's pie and crackers) in Rosamunde Pilcher's The Shell-Seekers (Los Buscadores de Conchas, in Spanish).

Those who have never attempted to read in another language besides their own are recommended to start with something they would whizz through in a day in their mother tongue, ideally translated from their native language, something they find easy, light and hard to put down, and even something they have read before, albeit long enough ago to have forgotten the finer details. You need to learn to enjoy reading in another language before you try to 'educate' yourself with what you think you 'should be' reading; don't put yourself off when you've hardly started! Don Quijote de la Mancha can wait! (And we promise it's worth it).

If you're not confident enough with the language to tackle a novel – or even a play, which can be a good introduction to reading in Spanish – plenty of bestsellers from Spain, from airport books to serious literature, Mediaeval to 21st century, are available in the English translation, and Amazon Spain is still delivering – national deliveries can cost as little as €1 for carriage and reach you within a day or two. So, use the 'lockdown' wisely, to hone your mind and relax. It'll be over soon enough and we can all get on with our lives.


Matilde Asensi

Pre-dating the Da Vinci Code and, in fact, Dan Brown's even earlier novels, this wizard wordsmith from Alicante is just as meaty, well-researched, and readable. Her covers and dust-jacket info may frighten the lazy reader (that's most of us, at least some of the time) into believing these are highbrow historical novels; well, they certainly appeal to those who like that sort of thing, but if all you're looking for is mental relaxation on the sofa these next few weeks, Asensi's works are guaranteed page-turners. The Amber Room ('El Salón de Ámbar', in the original) is short and fast-moving: Focusing on a bunch of antique dealers peddling stolen works of art – a criminal gang whose members represent the pieces on a chess board – the central character, Ana Galdeano, is tasked with finding a unique artefact stolen by the Nazis in summer 1945. It's an entire room, made from Baltic amber, which has been dismantled, and in seeking it, Ana has to unravel a dangerous conspiracy dating back over 50 years (it's set in the 1990s). There's romance in it, too.



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