The chances are that unless you are Spanish speaking, you won't have heard of many, if any, of these writers (I certainly hadn't) as most haven't been published in English before. Granta turns it's focus on Spanish language writers featuring 22 writers under the age of 35 from Spain (7), Argentina (8), Chile (2), Peru (2), Mexico, Uruguay, and Bolivia. If you are used to the magical realism of Latin American writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and others, you are in for a bit of a surprise as this is the new generation of writers who, as the introduction notes, have largely grown up in more stable and democratic political times. It's interesting to compare the overall tone with Granta's most recent "best of" collection from young American writers. There, there was an undeniable preponderance of stories on aging and death - the Spanish writers here are generally much more youthful in outlook, generally writing about students and young adults (although Andrés Neuman covers the after effects of a wife's death in his tale of feuding university professors and Sònia Hernández muses on life after an accident that should have resulted in death).
The edition gets off to a cracking start with Lucía Puenzo's Havana-set story full of Latin sexiness and threats of violence. The steam almost comes off the pages. The same might be said of the story by Carlos Yushimito. Santiago Roncagliolo considers the relationship of Latin America with the US while Oliveiro Coelho evocatively portrays the plight of many out of work men in rural Argentina in the extract from his novel. Alberto Olmos considers the alienation of consumer culture in a terrific piece and Elvira Navarro writes of the end of a relationship.
Andrés Barba's short story about a woman with body image issues is highly disturbing, while Rodrigo Hasbún's description of a relationship told poignantly from both sides is innovative and sad. Federico Falco writes of a young achiest's love for a Mormon missionary, For those more used to having to work hard with Latin American writers (I'm thinking of Bola'o amongst others) will be more at home with Pola Olixarac's complex and challenging, but rewarding, Conditions for the Revolution. Mexican writer, Antonio Ortuño's style is also reminiscent of older Central and South American writers, detailing as it does letters and thoughts of a prisoner and his captor although it didn't quite work for me.
While most are short stories, several are extracts from longer works, often in progress, and of these a number have certainly made me want to read more (Javier Montes' The Hotel Life, Alberto Olmos, Andrés Ressia Colino, Matías Néspolo (whose line "Her pupils were like shards of granite sunken in the honey of a pair of magnificent eyes which, despite their colour had not a hint of sweetness about them" is simply beautiful), Alejandro Zambra and Carlos Labbé) so it is to be hoped that these eventually find translation too.
There are inevitably some that work less well for me. Pablo Gutiérrez's long sentences and paragraphs left me cold - more style than content to my taste and Andrés Filipe Solano's extract about two brothers didn't draw me in. I confess that I have no clue about what Samanta Schweblin's fish story is about, but I sort of enjoyed it nevertheless - it's beautifully written but very strange.
Fittingly, the edition is completed by Patrico Pron's story of a struggling writer living literally under a famous author.
Apologies if this reads like a list of names, but as they are not household names to English speaking readers, they are names to watch out for. I'm not sure there's a future Gabriel Garcia Marquez amongst them, but there's no doubt they emerge well from his shadow.
There's an energy, youthfulness and beauty in this collection, which is without exception beautifully translated, that you don't always get with English language writers. It's a treat and most of these have not appeared in English before. Let's hope that changes and that Granta continues to give Spanish writers this level of exposure to an English reading audience. Muchas gracias Granta!