In 2020, we published a history book about fake news, and this year we are back with another publication.
Our novel, Verano del 69, published by ENTRELÍNEAS EDITORES, takes a look at a little-known but amazing episode in Madrid’s history – the arrival of the future Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney to the Spanish capital. The great writer was unknown then outside of the English-speaking world, but in the present day, with his name charged with international renown, it is surprising to us that more people are not aware of the moment when an Irish literary giant intersected with Madrid neighbourhoods and Spanish history.
Heaney stayed in Lavapiés when he was here, a place where I once lived. It is little wonder, then, that our characters carry their dreams and burdens through this historic barrio, as well as Atocha, Cuesta de Moyano (incidentally, now a UNESCO site) and the surroundings that make up the patchwork that is Madrid’s centre.
Like us, he battled the heat and walked unknowingly around the corridors of the Prado – one of Europe’s premier art galleries. He was struck dumb and still by seeing, for the first time, Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son.
His Madrid is our Madrid, and not simply because accidents of emigration or culture gifted us some broad similarities. I say broad because neither author of Verano del 69 is on Nobel Prize’s radar just yet. At our book launch in July, at the amazing Crazy Mary Librería, the esteemed actor Denis Rafter presented our novel, and he regaled us with stories of how he had hosted Heaney at his home. One of the guests had also known the poet, and we had a contact that knew the driver who picked him up from Madrid airport.
I was proud and thrilled as the past became increasingly alive.
Characters of Verano del 69
Heaney, perhaps unsurprisingly, wrote a poem about his time in Madrid. In it, he sat the riverbank of time as the tides of history swelled. The poem allowed Heaney to explore the commonalities between Ireland and Spain, while also marvelling at the new and the exotic. In 1969, the world was not as homogeneous as it is now.
The poem also gave us a structure because in our ten chapters with ten interlinking stories and characters, a few lines of his poem give us the title of each chapter.
We have re-imagined his experiences and given life to a cast of characters that, like the city Heaney encountered at the end of the 1960’s, are opening up to the outside, pulling at their limits, and figuring out their place in the world. Madrid is the stunning backdrop, as more bikinis are spotted on Spanish beaches, as more change is in the air, the people and the environment are vibrating and convulsing with existential questions.
The first person we meet is Dolores, who is spending time in a women’s prison for an unspecified crime. Soon, she will be forced to move because the building will be destroyed. The landscape of the city is changing as much as the interior world of our protagonists. In this innovative, meticulously researched work, which plays with form and structure, we shed light on the rich and the poor, the desperate and the idealistic, and we delve into the little-known yet profound links between Ireland and Spain.
We are very proud of this book and we hope you will enjoy it as well.
A Glowing Review
This was recently sent to us by Manu, a fan of the book:
The way it is written is original, and that is something really difficult. It very well conveys many elements, ideas and characteristics of Spain at that time, without falling into the cliché, which is also quite difficult. It also contains other elements that are more universal or, to put it another way, less documentary, which are very good. I liked it a lot, both in the form: the technique, the structure of the story (s), and the content. It takes a lot of sensitivity and intelligence to capture things like that and reflect them in a book.
You can go on our virtual tour of a historic neighbourhood in Madrid. Listen to our podcast for more cultural pieces, and head to our online shop for some literary-inspired fashion.
Thank you for reading about our novel – Verano del 69!
Categories: Blog Stuff, Culture & History
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