STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The literary magazine Granta has brought together a collection of short stories from emerging Spanish language novelists, nearly two dozen of them. And we want to take a few minutes now to learn about some of the literary talent that's beginning to make its way into English language bookstores.
John Freeman is the editor of Granta. He joins us from London.
Mr. JOHN FREEMAN (Editor, Granta): Good to be here.
INSKEEP: And Valerie Miles helped judge the winners of this best young novelists collection. She joins us from Barcelona. Welcome.
Ms. VALERIE MILES (Editor, Granta en Espanol): Thank you.
INSKEEP: Why don't we begin with John Freeman. Granta has certainly long championed talented new English language writers, but this was a new move for the magazine. What prompted you do to this?
Mr. FREEMAN: Well, just the degree of talent that's working in the Spanish language today. We've done three best young British novelist issues, and the first one found Salman Rushdie and Kazuo Ishiguro and Julian Barnes.
And for the past seven years weve had Granta en Espanol run by Valerie in Spain, and they've been talking to us quite a bit about young writers who are emerging, and it felt long overdue that we acknowledge this talent.
INSKEEP: And Valerie, let's take a look at some of the new talent. First I noticed that more than a third of these writers are from Argentina. What do you make of that?
Ms. MILES: I think a lot has to do with the fact that Argentina is a country with a very long and strong literary tradition. But it's also because Argentina is a country that has wonderful bookstores. Some of the really great and very important publishing companies that ran away from Franco's Spain came out of Argentina, and it's very exciting to see what's going on there.
INSKEEP: One of those Argentine writers featured is Lucia Puenzo, who has written a story called "Cohiba," which is actually about Havana. Tell us about Puenzo's writing and about that story.
Ms. MILES: She has a very interesting approach to writing, which is she likes the present tense. While she's writing, she opens narrative bubbles where even in flashback she's writing in the present tense.
INSKEEP: Is there a passage from "Cohiba" we could get you share with us?
Ms. MILES: Let's see.
The street is a psychotic migratory wave, people walking in groups, nobody going in the same direction. They walk with the same sluggish gait, crushed by the heat and lack of air. Along the banks a string of large run-down houses and mansions from the colonial period now converted into human dovecotes, one family per room, all in the same state, peeling paint, broken glass, tall weeds, holes in the ceilings and walls.
I like the directness of Lucia's writing. Very direct, very clear, very clean, very crisp, and the fact that she puts that together with a present-tense narration gives a kind of immediacy to the story that I think is very interesting.
INSKEEP: In this collection there's a Columbian writer named Andres Felipe Solano, who wrote a story called "The Cuervo Brothers." John, who are the Cuervo brothers, and what's this story about?
Mr. FREEMAN: The narrator goes to school with the Cuervo brothers, and there's all kinds of rumors about them, that they're gay, that their mother does terrible things for work. If anyone has ever gone to a new school and there's new kids there, these are the kinds of things that multiply.
INSKEEP: Why don't we have you read the first paragraph.
Mr. FREEMAN: The Cuervo brothers claimed to have been transferred from a school whose name we had never heard of. From the very first week there were all kinds of stories about them. As the months went by, these grew like the number of bullfrogs in the rainy season. During the holidays I've classified them in a notebook. Going over them carefully, I've established four categories: One, sex. Two, sinister. Three, diabolical. Four, Martian.
INSKEEP: So the Martian reference just comes out of the blue there.
Mr. FREEMAN: Yeah, it does. I mean, this is a story about outsiders. All of us know and have this tendency to pinpoint outsiders and aliens.
Ms. MILES: The interesting thing here though is that the two brothers, the Cuervo brothers, don't mind actually the fact that they're the ones that are being taunted and teased and made fun of. In fact, quite the opposite. They even seem to enjoy it.
INSKEEP: A lot of great writers have gotten important starts in the pages of Granta magazine. Do you think the Spanish language Jonathan Franzen or Martin Amis or Salman Rushdie is in here, Valerie?
Ms. MILES: I do. I'm sure that from here we're going to see prizes. As a matter of fact, Pablo Gutierrez, one of the perhaps less-known writers - people said who's Pablo Gutierrez? Well, he just won the National Critics Award. So I think we're going to see really exciting things from these authors in the future.
INSKEEP: Thank you both very much.
Ms. MILES: Thank you.
Mr. FREEMAN: Thank you.
INSKEEP: Jonathan Freeman is Granta's editor. The co-editor is Valerie Miles. They helped select this new collection of authors. To read John Freeman's selections for the best debut novels of the year, visit npr.org.
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