their literary tastes, hipsters and not so much

After three years of hiatus due to the coronavirus, Felipe and Letizia have once again presided over the celebration of the Cervantes Prize, the highest literary award of Spanish letters. Let us remember that in previous editions, the kings had to travel to the private address of the winners (Francis Brines Y Joan Margaret) to deliver the awards, but this year they have been able to return the tinsel.

Yesterday he looked adorned again Royal Palace for lunch before the publishing world and this morning, and despite the rain, the Auditorium of the University of Alcala de Henares has reopened its doors. The only shadow to such important events has been that this year’s winner, the Uruguayan poet Christina Rossithe sixth woman to receive the award, has not been able to attend for health reasons (the award was collected on her behalf by the Argentine actress Cecilia Roth).

The Crown and the books

The Real home She is always very involved with acts of this type. And she has been since the time of Juan Carlos. It had always been said that one of the reasons why his grandfather had fallen from grace, Alfonso XIII, was due to the lack of support from the crown for culture and, above all, for intellectuals. For this reason, the Crown was very careful not to encourage contacts with writers from the first day of the reign of the now emeritus. his son, Philip VIseems to have followed in his footsteps and yesterday, in the speech he gave before lunch, he made clear the monarchy’s interest in supporting Arts and Letters.

It was a short speech, with some somewhat dense and far-fetched opening paragraphs, but it went back to the middle and was right on two points. First, in the gloss on the life and work of Christina Rossi, although perhaps it was necessary to highlight more the writer’s fight against the dictatorship (she has suffered several exiles, both from her native Uruguay and from Franco’s Spain). Second, in the reminder to Joan Margaret Y Francis Brines.

To put a snag, the king should have used the speech to thank the publishing world for its resistance during the pandemic (like so many other sectors, the crisis, especially in small publishers and in bookstores, was a boom). I would also have liked more presence of booksellers at the event, independent publishers and young creators. To be honest, both best-selling author and television personality give an image that does not represent the reality of the sector, nor the immense talent that many young writers (especially women) are showing. And no, I don’t mean youtubers (although there are a few booktuberspeople you recommend books for Youtube, very good). There are writers who are starting out really remarkable, small publishing houses that are doing an extraordinary job and with a very high quality and new publications that have a very good level. The Royal House should bet more on this type of people and not only on the best-seller shift.

Letizia and the famous “hipster” books

The king was comfortable in yesterday’s act and also very smiling in today’s Alcala de Henares. But if there is someone who likes to see himself among writers and journalists, it is Letizia. That the queen likes books is well known or, at least, it is known that she enjoys independent literature, that which many mistakenly call –and surely due to ignorance–, «hipster«.

In fact, when her marriage commitment to the then Prince of Asturias was made public, the first thing the columnists pointed out was that she was an inveterate reader. Not to mention, of course, that one of the gifts that she gave Felipe in his marriage proposal was precisely a book, The maid of Don Enrique the mournerfrom Mariano Jose de Larraa copy from 1850. It was said that Letizia liked all kinds of books, although it seems that, at that time, what she liked the most were essay books and what the Anglo-Saxons call non-fiction. From Kapuscinski I had read it all and also Javier Marias, the eternal Spanish contender for the Nobel. On some occasion he admitted that he liked the Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes.

Letizia has been seen on more than one occasion with several copies of the editorial Cliff (Personally I think it is the best publisher in the country and I dare to say that it is among the five best in Europe). On one occasion when Letizia attended the filming of the queen of spainstarring Penélope Cruz, gave the actress a copy of the little virtuesfrom the Italian Natalia Ginzburg. Furthermore, at a Book Fair in Madrid he admitted that he had just read Schubert’s Winter Journeyfrom Ian Bostridgeand that he liked the latest modelfrom Frank Maubertabout Caroline, a young prostitute who, in 1958, met the sculptor Alberto Giacometti and became his muse.

Through the purchases that the queen makes at the Madrid Book Fair, we know of other of her preferences. One year she asked for a copy of Freedomfrom Jonathan Franken. In September 2021, she was very interested in the extraordinary yearsfrom Rodrigo Cortes (Random House Literature), and above all by The oblivion that we will befrom Hector Abad Faciolince (Alfaguara).

He also reads a lot about music. In this, he does have tastes that go beyond the purely commercial. The queen likes music very much indie and when she was a princess she was frequently seen in bars and alternative concert halls. Once, in the La Riviera room, at an Eels concert, she admitted to one of the attendees that she had read the biography of the group’s leader, Mark Oliver Everett, Things that grandchildren should know (Blackie Books). The guy he told it to was dumbfounded.