Read Your Way Through Madrid #Read #Madrid

I have a weakness for the play “Bohemian Lights,” by Ramón María del Valle-Inclán. In it, we spend almost 24 hours with the poet Max Estrella, reflecting on the decadence of Spanish society in the 1920s (in general, reflecting on the decadence of Spanish society in any era is one of Madrilenians’ obsessions). The play mentions many places that still exist: the chocolate shop in San Ginés, the mirror-lined Callejón del Gato (Cat Alley). I would also recommend “The Maravillas District,” an autobiographical novel by Rosa Chacel that takes place in the streets of a Malasaña very different from the gentrified district beloved by students (and tourists) today. To continue getting to know a Madrid far removed from postcards, not only socially but also geographically, you should read “A Working Woman,” by Elvira Navarro. It is a reflection on the precarity of labor, especially in the field of culture: The protagonist works as a freelancer in the publishing industry, and barely survives in the neighborhood of Aluche.

Almudena Grandes. Her work, which includes novels, short stories and articles, is a long love letter to Madrid, and she died in November 2021; the photos of her funeral are moving, with Republican flags mingling with her books in the hands of thousands of readers. She wrote eloquently about Spain’s recent past — the Second Republic, the Civil War and the years of dictatorship that followed.

“The Ages of Lulu” is perhaps her most popular book that has been translated into English, but I prefer “The Frozen Heart,” also a Madrilenian novel, and the start of her most political phase.

As for the book that everyone is reading — in Madrid, in Spain, in the world! — it is “Bad Habit,” by Alana S. Portero, which will be published in the United States by HarperCollins in April 2024, in a translation by Mara Faye Lethem. It tells the story of a working-class transgender woman full of rage and beauty, pain and poetry, who walks through the neighborhoods of Chueca and Malasaña, in the city center, and San Blas, in the suburbs. (By the way, I have just realized that she and Almudena Grandes are the only two authors I have recommended who were born in Madrid, which confirms my theory.)

Although he did not write any books about Madrid, the city permeated the entire life of Federico García Lorca. He settled here in 1919 and always returned after stays in America or visits to his family in Granada; it was in Madrid that he worked on many of his best books. It is easy to trace Lorca’s footsteps through the city: the Residencia de Estudiantes where he met Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, the Café Gijón where his cohort would gather, the Ateneo de Madrid cultural institution, his last house at 96 Calle de Alcalá (now home to a bookstore) and the stages where his plays premiered. Following this Lorca route, you could end by leaving flowers at his statue in the Plaza de Santa Ana, in front of the Teatro Español.

#Read #Madrid

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