Ever since its first “Best of Young British Novelists” issue in 1983, Granta‘s once-a-decade spotlight on rising literary talents — initially including then-relative unknowns Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, and Martin Amis — has proved to be a consistent predictor of enduring success. Although the magazine has issued two similar lists for American writers (first in 1996, most recently in 2007), its focus has remained limited to the English-speaking world. Last week marked a historical turn in a new direction, however, as Granta 113 boasts a selection of 22 Spanish language authors whose names are sure to soon join the recognizable ranks of other Latin American and Spanish heavyweights. Ahead of the issue’s release, here’s a chance to familiarize yourself with a selection of these emerging writers before they’re as ubiquitous as Borges and Bolaño.
An active author, anthologist, and critic, Oliverio Coelho has received several literary awards and grants in his native Argentina and has participated in writing residencies as far as Mexico and South Korea. Three of his six novels comprise a futuristic trilogy — Los Invertebrables (2003), Borneo (2004), Promesas Naturales (2006) — in which humanity is plagued by subhuman animalistic mutations and reproductive regulations, but this imaginative approach to social engagement permeates all of his work. Coelho’s literary criticism also appears in publications like El País, La Nación, and Perfil, and he covers news within the publishing industry for the magazine Los Inrockuptibles.
Carlos Labbé’s fiction has a playfully philosophical quality that has been sorely lacking in the majority of recent literature. A risk-taking literary trickster, this Chilean writer plays games with his audience through experimental, complexly metaphorical stories that come within a hair’s breath of reinventing the genre itself. Such is particularly the case with Navidad y Matanza (2007), a three-part novel that feels more like a puzzle than a conventional narrative.
In the tradition of Raymond Carver — an author who she identifies as a favorite — Elvira Navarro writes clean, direct fiction that transcends linguistic and cultural context. She was named one of Spain’s new literary talents after publishing La Ciudad en Invierno (2007), a stunningly nuanced take on the classic story of a girl in search of herself, and received the 15th annual Jaén de Novela Prize for her second novel, La Ciudad de Feliz. Her articles and short stories have been published in various literary magazines as well as in Spain’s El País newspaper.
Javier Montes first rose to literary prominence as a critic. He has written extensively about the literary and art world as the editor for the Arts & Aesthetics section of Revista de Libros, taught art history at the Colegio Español de Malabo, and published Spanish translations of Dickens, Shakespeare, and Apollinaire. This talent for precision and critical details is manifested in his first novel Los Penultimos, a coolly composed tale about a decadent and distraught young actress, for which he won Spain’s generous José Maria de Pereda Prize.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the daring imagination and intellectual provocation that characterizes Pola Oloixarac’s stunning debut novel Las Teorías Salvajes (tr. Wild Theories, 2009), the young Argentine writer was met with sexist attacks from literary critics. Many of Oloixarac’s defenders viewed the outcry as the result of her deviation from typical women’s literary subjects (i.e. identity and love), but whatever the reason, it’s difficult to overlook the astute and engagingly satirical qualities of her narrative social critique.
Rodrigo Hasbún had his first story published in Nuevo Milenio in 2000 when he was only 19-years-old. He later won Bolivia’s National Story Prize in 2002 and has since garnered numerous other accolades. Selected to represent his native Bolivia during Bogota 39, which brought 39 writers under the age of 39 together, Hasbún has demonstrated his vocal presence both on the page and in the literary community at large. His vaguely self-referential short story collection Cinco is set in a nameless city distinguished by its potential to be anywhere and nowhere, a backdrop that ultimately emphasizes the psychological interiors of his characters.
Federico Falco’s previous work as a video artist and audiovisual communications lecturer comes across in his highly nuanced and visceral prose. The Argentine writer’s short stories have been included in various spotlights on rising Latin American talents, and he’s already published autonomous short story collections (222 Patitos and 00, both 2004) as well as poetry anthology Made in China (2008). A professed cinephile and fan of shows from Seinfeld to Parks and Recreation, he has demonstrated a keen eye for the curiosities and comedies of modern life — which is probably why he’s made New York City his adopted home.
Andrés Barba is not entirely new on the international circuit. After studying Spanish philology and later philosophy, the Madrid native gained attention with his first novella, The Bone that Most Hurts, for which he received the prestigious Ramón J. Sender Prize in 1997. He has since gained widespread acclaim for complex narratives like La Recta Intención (tr. The Honest Intention), which is composed of four parable-like novellas that deal with modern day guilt and fear, and Ahora Tocad Musica de Baile (tr. Now Play A Dance Tune), in which the protagonist slowly succumbs to Alzheimer’s. He has represented Spain at literary conferences throughout the world and his work has already been translated into English, French, German, Romanian, Serbian, Dutch, Bulgarian, Italian, Greek, and Arabic.
Peru’s Santiago Runcagliolo has practiced his pen in almost every literary medium imaginable. The son of a renowned political analyst, he began his writing career with a few children’s books and a short play before moving on to soap opera scriptwriting, investigative journalism, political analysis, and, most recently, fiction. His 2006 novel Abril Rojo (tr. Red April) chronicles the internal shifts of a diligent district attorney, and won the Alfaguara Prize. He currently lives in Barcelona.
Like Hasbún, Andrés Neuman was identified as one of Latin America’s most outstanding young writers during Bogota 39. Born in Argentina and currently residing in Spain, his first novel, Bariloche (1999), was a finalist for the Herralde Prize, and two separate periodicals voted his most recent novel, El Viajero del Siglo (tr. The Traveler of the Century), as one of the top five Spanish language novels of 2009. And as a final testament to his potential, even Roberto Bolaño claimed: “The literature of the twenty-first century will belong to Neuman and to a handful of his blood brothers.”
The Rest of the Best
Matías Néspolo (Argentina, b. 1975)
Patricio Pron (Argentina, b. 1975)
Lucía Puenzo (Argentina, b. 1976)
Samanta Schweblin (Argentina, b. 1978)
Alejandro Zambra (Chile, b. 1975)
Andrés Felipe Solano (Colombia, b. 1977)
Antonio Ortuño (Mexico, b. 1976)
Carlos Yushimito (Peru, b. 1977)
Pablo Gutiérrez (Spain, b. 1978)
Sonia Hernández (Spain, b. 1976)
Alberto Olmos (Spain, b. 1975)
Andrés Ressia Colino (Uruguay, b. 1977)